House debates

Thursday, 3 March 2016


Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome

4:44 pm

Photo of Eric HutchinsonEric Hutchinson (Lyons, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

This evening I want to raise the issue of the outbreak of Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome—more commonly known as POMS—that has occurred in Tasmania in recent weeks. This is an absolute disaster for a very important industry in my state, and in my electorate particularly. There are potentially 400 jobs at risk as a result of this devastating outbreak, which is largely contained in south-east Tasmania but ongoing testing will be done in areas further north in the area around the Swan River, Georges Bay and up on the north-west coast.

For those who are not aware, whilst none of the hatcheries in Tasmania have tested positive to POMS, obviously restrictions are being put on. Tasmania supplies somewhere between 80 and 90 per cent of all the spat that goes to other parts of the country for Pacific oysters—South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and other places. It is a huge concern. The outbreak was discovered in early February of this year and really has brought the whole industry to a standstill. The impact it is having on family businesses is quite phenomenal. It has been detected in areas in the south and as far north as Little Swanport, on the east coast and also in a wild population in the Derwent Estuary.

I had a long conversation earlier this week with Patrick Hone from Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, and I thank him for being very open about this and helping to improve my knowledge of what is a very complicated situation. The difficulty for the hatcheries is that the oysters that have shown some resistance to disease, in populations that have survived, are unlikely to be brought back into hatcheries that are deemed to be clean at the moment. One of my staff attended two meetings in the last two weeks, one at Dunalley last week and one at Sorell this week, and I thank Lorraine Anderson from my office at Brighton for doing that. This is going to have a huge impact. It is of great concern and it will be a long road to recovery.

Biosecurity is a fundamental responsibility for us as an island nation. There was an initial emergency response, and I acknowledge the work done by Minister Rockliff. The Tasmanian government immediately allowed the exemption of nearly $775,000 in fees to affected businesses. The Commonwealth stands ready to support the state government to deliver what positive outcomes they can. There is a stronger biosecurity and quarantine initiative—SBQI, sometimes known as the flying squad—and I know they have had success in Queensland and other places with the Panama disease in bananas. There is also, of course, the Immediate Assistance Fund in the agricultural white paper. It is a matter of the industry and the department in Tasmania working collaboratively to come up with a plan that can be submitted to the Commonwealth, and we stand ready to support those businesses.

My thoughts are with Neil Stump of the Tasmania Seafood Industry Council; Ray and Sue Schwanke of Blue Lagoon Oysters; Tom Gray from Bangor Wine and Oyster Shed; Yvonne Young and Steve Leslie, who raise angasi oysters—fortuitously, the angasi species is not impacted by this; Ben Cameron, who operates a hatchery at Dunalley, and all the staff he employs; Tim Pauley from Southern Cross Marine Culture; Todd England; Jeff and Sheila Peddell; and Max Cunningham. All of these businesses are impacted. The issue is going to be ongoing for a long time, but we stand ready to help.