Image for ‘RTI Confirms Liberals at Behest of Salmon Farming Industry’

*Pic: Plans for fish farms in Okehampton Bay. Marine Protection Tasmania pic

Three years of correspondence between Primary Industries Minister, Jeremy Rockliff, and salmon farming companies, obtained by the Greens through Right to Information, reveal an all too familiar Tasmanian tale. 

Far from arm’s length, the tone of most of the correspondence is one of familiarity, bullying and Ministerial acquiescence.  The salmon farming industry says ‘jump’ and the Liberals say ‘how high?’.

The RTI confirms the Liberals are at the beck and call of the salmon farming industry, with independent oversight and regulation is almost nonexistent. There are regular references to breaches of regulations, but rarely consequences for industry’s flagrant non-compliances.

In three years of correspondence between Minister Rockliff and the salmon farming companies, the community and marine environment barely rate a mention. It’s certainly not Tasmanians who are winning under the Liberals’ mismanagement of this industry.

Documents from last August confirm plans for Tassal’s expansion into Okehampton Bay were guaranteed from inception, regardless of community concerns or wider marine environmental impacts. The industry was always going to get salmon in place at that site from the start.

The RTI documents appear, however, to have omitted key correspondence about the East Coast salmon farm expansion. The first letter from Minister Rockliff to Tassal outlining Terms of Reference for the assessment of Okehampton Bay by the Marine Farm Planning Review Panel, apparently sent on 25 August, is missing.

Surrounding documents suggest Tassal had concerns with how the assessment Terms of Reference had been written, and also refer to agreements made at a meeting between the Premier and Tassal CEO, Mark Ryan. 

After a day of intensive emails between his office and Mr Ryan, Minister Rockliff sent a second letter on 26 August 2016 reassuring Tassal the Marine Farming Planning Review Panel would not be tasked with considering amendments to the Marine Farming Plan in the Mercury Passage.

Although separate statutory processes could be used to amend that plan - including assessing the impacts on community and other industries - Mr Rockliff stated, “this is not in contemplation at this time”.

There’s no hint in any correspondence the Liberals would even consider cracking down on industry practices that jeopardise the environment or long-term interests of other maritime businesses.

This makes a mockery of the Liberals so-called ‘tough regulation’ of the salmon farming industry, and exposes them as run by industry, for industry.

** RTI Documents can be found here:  http://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/about-the-department/governance-policies-and-legislation/rti-disclosure-log

• Richard Kopf in Comments: The Okehampton Fish Farm will not survive. The so-called scientific assessment has got more holes in it than a Tassal net. It brushes off the threats to the installation such as the presence of regular blooms of A.tamarense on the East coast of Tasmania. These toxic blooms destroyed not only the salmon industry but other fishing on the Island of Chiloe in Chile. Same latitude as the area that Tassal plans to farm on Tasmania’s East Coast …