Report: Second Report on the Fisheries Management (Aquaculture) Regulation 1995 and the Fisheries Management (Aquaculture) Amendment (Administration) Regulation 1999
Mr MARTIN (Bathurst) [12.46 p.m.]: This report is a follow-up to the committee's previous report, No. 13/52, on the Fisheries Management (Aquaculture) Regulation 1995 and the Fisheries Management (Aquaculture) Amendment (Administration) Regulation 1999. In the earlier report the committee said:
It is clear from the evidence presented to the Regulation Review Committee that action should be taken to implement an integrated program, accompanied by specific costings, to carry out the following recommendations:
1. The Committee recommends that Safe Food ensure that the Operational Review being prepared by Dr Rodgers be completed by the end of December 2000 and circulated to all concerned parties for comment by the end of February 2001. Furthermore that Safe Food inform the Committee of the action it intends to take as a consequence of the Operational Review by the end of March 2001.
2. The Committee recommends that Safe Food inform the Committee of the action it intends to take with respect to the Management Review by the end of March 2001.
3. The Committee recommends that the Minister for Agriculture ensure that adequate staff are retained by Safe Food in order to enable it to expeditiously complete the Sanitary Surveys of the State's waterways.
4. The Committee recommends that funding be provided to sewer critical areas of the Hawkesbury River catchment and that the Hawkesbury be adopted as a pilot scheme for the classification of waters by reference to sanitary surveys in the light of its importance to the industry.
5. The Committee recommends that Safe Food and the Waterways Authority incorporate world's best practice in the New South Wales Shellfish Quality Assurance Program and take such other action as will enable the export of New South Wales oysters to any nation.
6. The Committee recommends that Safe Food and the Waterways Authority undertake education campaigns over the next 10 years promoting the export of Sydney Rock Oysters.
7. The Committee recommends that the principal regulation be amended to provide that in any waterway of the State it is an offence for an owner or for a hirer of:
(a) a Class 1 commercial vessel, or
(b) a Class 4 commercial vessel which is intended for residence or recreation,
if the owner or hirer permits the vessel to approach within 100 metres of an oyster lease, or within such other distance as may be prescribed in a particular case.
The penalty for this offence should be $750 for a first offence, $1500 for a second offence and $3000 for a third or subsequent offence.
8. The Committee recommends that the principal regulation be amended to provide that in any waterway of the State the owner of:
a) a Class 1 commercial vessel, or
b) a Class 4 commercial vessel which is intended for residence or recreation must ensure that adequate storage tanks for sewage are fitted and that the tanks are pumped out at necessary intervals without polluting the waterways.
9. The Committee recommends that the Government facilitate such loans at bank interest to the owners of vessels referred to in recommendation 8 as are necessary to ensure compliance with that recommendation.
10. The Committee recommends that the Waterways Authority establish such pumpout facilities in the waterways of the State as are necessary to enable compliance with recommendation 8 and that the on shore removal of sewage from the pumpout facilities be provided free of charge for the initial 10 years of their operation.
11. The Committee recommends that each owner of a class 4 commercial vessel which is hired for residence or recreation, be required to prepare an instructional video on the use of the vessel, showing in particular the areas which the vessel is prohibited and that each owner be required to show the video to the person hiring the vessel prior to its operation.
12. That the Waterways Authority give urgent consideration to the provision of plain English or other explicit signage in the proximity of oyster leases to warn boat owners of the problems associated with the discharge of sewage.
The first six recommendations chiefly concern the need for sanitary surveys of the State's oyster-producing areas and other action to enable the export of New South Wales oysters to any nation. These recommendations are being implemented. Information supplied by Safefood indicates that the Government allocated $825,000 for sanitary surveys over a 12-month period. That amount is included in the Government's coastal protection package. To date, two areas—Corrie Island, Port Stephens and Nelson Lagoon, South Coast—have been classified and audited by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service.
The committee also recommended that funding be provided to sewer critical areas of the Hawkesbury River catchment, that the principal regulation should make it an offence for large commercial and hire vessels to approach within 100 metres or such other prescribed distance of an oyster lease, and that these vessels should be fitted with adequate storage tanks for sewage and be provided with pump-out facilities to prevent pollution of the waterways. Those recommendations have not been implemented, although the committee believes that they are being explored with New South Wales Fisheries in the current revision of the principal regulation that is due for staged repeal on 1 September 2002.
Mr Paul Davico, manager of Holidays-A-Float Houseboats Pty Ltd, who gave evidence at the inquiry into the regulations, advised the committee that his company just completed converting its entire fleet to full pump-out facilities. He said that every time a vessel is hired, upon its return to the marina its holding tanks are pumped out into below-ground holding tanks. The below-ground holding tanks were installed with government assistance. The effluent from these tanks is, in turn, pumped into a tanker contracted to Hornsby Shire Council which charges the company $1.68 per 100 litres of effluent removed. That is paid for by an environmental levy of $1 per person per day, charged by the company's two hirers of vessels. Mr Davico advised the committee that the hirers are more than happy to pay the levy as they appreciate the need to protect the environment.
While I congratulate Mr Davico on this initiative on his part, which sets a good example, it is clear that government action is necessary to bind other operators in the State's waterways. The committee thanks the Minister for his attention to recommendations 1 to 6 and awaits the consideration of recommendations 7 to 12 by the responsible agents in the current review of this principal regulation. I place on record my thanks and the thanks of all other committee members for the professional work done by Mr Jim Jefferis, manager of the committee, Mr Greg Hogg, project officer, Don Beattie, committee officer and, until recently, Rachel Dart, assistant committee officer. I commend the report to the House.
Mr R. W. TURNER (Orange) [12.55 p.m.]: I speak in debate on the second report of the Regulation Review Committee on the Fisheries Management (Aquaculture) Regulation 1995 and the Fisheries Management (Aquaculture) Amendment (Administration) Regulation 1999. This report is about the future of the oyster industry in New South Wales. The committee, in its initial report in November 2000, made 12 recommendations to secure the future of that industry. The Minister has addressed half of those recommendations. A major recommendation in the report was that funding be provided to sewer critical areas of the Hawkesbury River catchment and that the Hawkesbury be adopted as a pilot scheme for the classification of waters by reference to sanitary surveys in the light of its importance to the industry.
Sanitary surveys involve a detailed risk assessment of shellfish harvest areas in accordance with the Australian shellfish quality assurance program. A significant feature of these surveys is that they comply with national standards and set in place a management plan for each harvest area. That makes New South Wales competitive with other Australian States and affords it access to export markets. The Minister said that $825,000 has been allocated for sanitary surveys and that a sanitary survey of the Hawkesbury River is under way. That is fine, but what about funding to sewer critical areas of the Hawkesbury River catchment?
The committee found as a result of its inquiry that most of the catchment was unsewered, despite its importance to the industry. We have heard nothing from the Minister in relation to that issue. The committee also stated in its initial report that the regulation should be amended to make it an offence for large commercial and hire vessels to approach within 100 metres of an oyster lease and that those vessels should be fitted with adequate storage tanks for sewage and be provided with pump-out facilities to prevent pollution of the waterways. The Minister told us that he supports the intent of those recommendations, but he left it to enterprising firms such as Holidays-A-Float Houseboats Pty Ltd to implement those recommendations by converting its entire fleet to full pump-out facilities.
The principal regulation is due for staged repeal under the staged repeal program in the Subordinate Legislation Act 1989 on 1 September 2002. That is an ideal time for the Minister to introduce new provisions to implement the committee's recommendations. In the time available to me I thank the former chairman, Peter Nagle, for the role that he played and I welcome the new chairman, the honourable member for Bathurst. I thank the staff of the committee—Jim Jefferis, Greg Hogg who lives in Brooklyn, which is where one of the committee hearings was held, and Don Beattie. I also thank those in the oyster and houseboat industries who took time to give evidence to the committee. They support an important industry—the Sydney rock oyster and Pacific oyster industry. Whilst it is not a big in the scheme of things it is an important employment industry. The restaurant industry would not be the same without Sydney rock oysters.