Some good news at last for oyster growers

IT is no doubt a relief to oyster growers that the State Liberal Government will honour the commitment made by the Labour government to waive oyster lease and licence fees for the next two years.

The announcement, made in February by the Labour government was welcomed by oyster growers, but some did question how long it would last. 

Thankfully, it seems like it will last as long as originally promised. 

While hatcheries are doing their best to grow enough spat for growers to get onto to leases, it will probably be some time before these businesses are back up and running again.

Not to mention the pressure on these hatcheries is enormous.

When the outbreak of Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome was detected in 2016 the boarders to Tasmania were closed, cutting growers off from where they had historically purchased about 80 per cent of spat.

And the Eyre Peninsula region, namely its oyster growers, have been feeling the pinch ever since.

According to local oyster farmer Michael Whillas, that is not about to change. 

On today’s front page Mr Whillas says his operation – like many others around the region – is struggling and he doesn’t expect to have any saleable oysters for another nine months. 

There is no doubt waiving lease and licence fees will help relieve some of the financial pressure growers are under. 

Another part of the state government’s plan is to follow through on its election promise to restructure aquaculture leases by allow existing lease holders to borrow against them.

For some it is probably a welcome second option but as Mr Whillas said borrowing money can be a “double-edged sword”.

If growers who are under financial pressure due to the POMS outbreak and resulting lack of spat are taking out loans on their leases it could undo the good work done by the fee relief.

Having said that all businesses need cash flow and the load option does offer a back-up and perhaps a bit of peace of mind to get growers through the next few months.

It seems like oyster growers have taken hit after hit over the last year or so but hopefully the measures the industry has in place and the assistance it is getting from the government will make for a more resilient industry in the future.