Tasmania’s largest salmon producer Tassal has faced strong opposition to its plans for expansion. (ABC News: Peter Curtis)
The mayor of a Tasmanian region which is the subject of a fierce debate about salmon farming says it is unlikely to be an issue when voters head to the polls next year.
There has been widespread debate about salmon giant Tassal’s plans to farm salmon at Okehampton Bay on the state’s east coast.
With an election looming, the State Government has responded to criticism about regulation by moving oversight to the Environmental Protection Authority.
The Government has also moved to ban salmon farming in the nearby Mercury Passage area, which was described by environmentalists as a “cosmetic stunt”.
Glamorgan Spring Bay Mayor Michael Kent said the Okehampton Bay proposal has been approved by the independent review panel and matter is unlikely to become an election issue.
“I believe it’s almost done and dusted, it will happen,” he said.
Michael Kent believes plans for Okehampton Bay are “almost done and dusted”. (ABC News: Alex Blucher)
Polling released yesterday by the left-leaning Australia Institute found more than half of the 1,000 people surveyed had concerns about long-term employment in the industry “by not investing in future proofing”.
The Government has dismissed the polling as “amateurish” and “clearly designed to produce anti-fish farming results”.
Mr Kent said the results were out-of-step with the community feeling, and that the industry was creating jobs in a region that desperately needed them.
“It keeps the families together and people off the dole, so as far as I’m concerned it’s great and it’s not going to impact tourism in any way, shape or form,” he said.
“I don’t believe what’s happened in Macquarie Harbour will ever happen in Okehampton Bay.”
Labor promises more resources
Earlier this year the State Government announced it would introduce legislation that “strengthens and consolidates the environmental regulation of finfish farming in Tasmania”.
That includes a formal transfer of responsibility to the EPA and the power to declare a “no grow zone” where there can be no fish farming.
Opposition Leader Rebecca White said she had not seen the final legislation, but appeared to be giving qualified support.
“We will support legislation that improves the regulation of the salmon industry,” she said.
Ms White said an elected Labor Government would provide more staff to the EPA.
“We would allocate more resourcing to the EPA as the independent regulator, we need to improve transparency about how decisions are made,” she said.
“I think the Government has failed to properly regulate the salmon industry.”
Greens turn torch on Lyons
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said her party would be campaigning hard on salmon farming in Lyons.
The party does not currently have a member in the rural electorate.
“The future of the east coast, the marine environment here, they will be election issues,” she said.
“We believe a very significant percentage of the community don’t want to see fish farming on the east coast of Tasmania.”
The state election will be before March next year, but there is talk in political circles of voters heading to the polls as early as November.
The Okehampton Bay fish farm lease was approved several years ago. (Supplied: Tasmanian Government)