Oyster fee relief

EMPTY: Piles of oyster baskets remain ashore as the industry has no spat to grow.
EMPTY: Piles of oyster baskets remain ashore as the industry has no spat to grow.

Oyster farmers will have almost $1.6 million in annual lease and licence fees waived over the next two years by the state Liberal government, who will honor Labor’s policy which was revealed prior to the state election.

The Marshall government will also aim to implement their election promise of restructuring aquaculture leases by the end of the year by amending the Aquaculture Act 2001, allowing existing aquaculture lease holders to borrow against their leases. 

The policies are a response to the Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) outbreaks in Tasmania in 2016, which saw South Australian growers unable to import Tasmanian spat to grow on their farms.

Coffin Bay oyster farmer Michael Whillas, who has not had any income or sales since Christmas 2017, said the fee relief was “extremely helpful.”

He said he was not expecting to have any oyster sales for another nine months due to the reduction of spat availability after the outbreak.

“We rely on hatcheries to produce spat...South Australia needs to catch up,” Mr Whillas said.

“(The industry) needs 200 million spat...the pressure is extreme on the hatchery.”

He said the restructure of aquaculture leases was a “double edged sword” as it could invite people to take out loans which they could not pay off.

“It’s a bit of a curly question (the aquaculture leases), if you borrow money you have to pay the money back,” Mr Whillas said.

He said business owners might overextend themselves if given access to potential capital through their aquaculture leases.

Minister for Primary Industries Tim Whetstone said the Liberal’s were honouring the previous government to support the industry to waive the fees.

“We are committed to supporting our oyster growers and the many associated regional jobs as they recover from recent POMS outbreaks,”

“There are now four commercial oyster hatcheries operating in South Australia, supplying spat to South Australian oyster growers.”

“On Febuary 1 2016, POMS was detected in Tasmiania for the first time, causing close to 100 per cent morality of oysters in some farmed areas.”

A temporary ban of transporting all live oysters and oyster farming equipment from Tasmania has been extended to March 31, 2019.