23 July 2014
Eliza Rogers/Craig Zonca
New aquaculture ‘development areas’ could be set up in central and northern Queensland if a report by the state’s competition authority is adopted.
The draft report recommends reforming regulation in the $80 million industry to better reach its potential and attract more investment.
But prawn farmers say there’s still a lot of work to be done.
For the past ten years, tight regulations and environmental concerns have stifled Queensland’s aquaculture industry.
But the State Government has asked the Queensland Competition Authority to investigate reforms to help boost investment.
The QCA has recommended offering investors more certainty by earmarking development areas for land-based aquaculture spanning 450 hectares.
Each would have its own government-developed regulatory code.
That would require all three levels of government to work together to streamline red tape, which Queensland Agriculture Minister John McVeigh says his government is prepared to do.
“It’s in line with our overall objective of reducing regulation in agriculture in general. We’ve been focused on that from a planning perspective already.”
The Australian Prawn Farmers Association has welcomed the report, but says roadblocks remain.
President Matt West says expansion has been hamstrung by pressures from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and he hopes the report leads to a more coordinated solution.
But he says the document sets out a conservative approach, and that the 450-hectare development area is “small thinking”.
He wants a larger-scale discussion to take the reforms forward.
“We believe we need a mutli-departmental taskforce, including federal agencies like GBRMPA, relevant state agencies and, most importantly, industry, to help identify zones and remove barriers that will stifle investment opportunities.”
The State Government has told the QCA that regulatory reforms must not diminish environmental protection, meaning industry must find appropriate environmental offsets.
Mr West says the industry is revisiting licence conditions that are conducive to industry growth and environment protection.
But he says aquaculture needs to look after the environment anyway to ensure a future.
Submissions to the report close on September 1 and the report will be handed down later that month.
Courtesy of ABC Rural