Oyster growers call for support

Tyron Whittens Oyster farms in Port Macquarie battered by the recent flooding

Labor has called on the State Government to help struggling oyster growers on the Coast following the March floods that impacted the industry just days before the usually lucrative Easter break.

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Jenny Aitchison, met with oyster growers from across the Brisbane Water and Hawkesbury River on May 19 to hear their concerns.

According to a release from NSW Labor, the oyster growers said one of the biggest issues faced following the floods was that the quality of water ‘had been destroyed’.

They also claimed they had not been able to access all or part of the $75,000 Primary Producer Recovery grants due to the ‘complex’ eligibility requirements.

Owner of Whittens Oysters, Tyron Whitten, was at the meeting and said although he had received the grant, there are still issues arising within the industry.

“I’m happy with it – the [Department] got back to me quickly and it wasn’t too difficult to apply,” Whitten said.

“One of the main issues we continue to have is the sewer spills into the waterway – it results in a 21-day closure.

“Once council notifies the Department, they shut us down and we can’t sell any oysters in that period.

“Post-floods it went on for longer than [the 21 days] … we had to lay 30 people off for a month.

“There’s no compensation – they don’t help us out, we do nothing wrong, but we’re the ones being penalised.

“If they can’t fix it, they should offer something.

“They should be talking to us and offering some sort of solution, some sort of compensation to local farmers.”

Aitchison said these growers desperately need fee relief and practical support after the floods.

“They need urgent help to get their businesses back on track and to pay the bills.

“As usual, the Government is all announcement and no real support for primary producers.

“With a small window to catch spat again in June 2021, such assistance is critical.”

Aitchison said she would like to see the Government provide an immediate waiver of all government fees payable by oyster growers and relief from the Local Shellfish Program Levy over the next 12 months.

She has also asked for additional support from the Department of Primary Industries to local oyster growers to assist them in applying for grants and coordinating restocking.

Member for Gosford, Liesl Tesch, was also in attendance at the meeting.

Speaking afterwards, Tesch called on the State Government to ‘step up and protect the affected businesses.

“Oyster growing in the Brisbane Water and the Hawkesbury is vital to our waterways and local ecology,” Tesch said.

“It supports hundreds of local jobs and a number of businesses which have been in our community for more than four generations.

CCN has reached out to the Department of Primary Industries for comment following the concerns raised by local oyster growers.

However, a reply had not been obtained by the time of publication.

Maisy Rae

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