Today I am pleased to announce a recovery package worth $7.6 million to help the Pacific oyster growers, nurseries and hatcheries to recover from the outbreak of Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS).
The Hodgman Liberal Government has been working closely with the peak body Oysters Tasmania and affected farmers.
The Pacific Oyster industry in Tasmania provides 35 per cent of the Australian Pacific Oyster production volume at an estimated farm gate value of $25 million. Tasmania’s Pacific Oyster hatcheries also provide 95 per cent of oyster seed Australia-wide.
In considering recovery actions, we have listened carefully to our POMS-affected farmers to develop a financial assistance package to ensure the long-term future of the industry in the state.
Today, we have established a $5 million POMS recovery concessional loan scheme to provide funding for stock recovery and clean-up of affected farms; operating costs necessary to restart, continue and redevelop operations while recovery occurs; to provide POMS-related infrastructure modifications and re-stock affected oyster farms, and for debt reconstruction.
The loan scheme is open to Tasmanian owned and operated oyster growers, hatcheries and nurseries located in POMS-affected areas.
The loan amounts will generally be between $30,000 and up to a maximum of $250,000, and will be at various concessional loan rates.
The Tasmanian Government will also provide a $1 million contribution towards the clean-up costs on oyster farms in the wake of the POMS outbreak. In addition, the Australian Government is providing $1.135 million dollars in funding towards this effort. The total $2.135 million clean-up package will be administered by the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and the Environment through a simple application process. Affected farms can apply for up to $4,500 per hectare that was under production and experienced POMS mortalities. Importantly, applications can be made for funds already spent in the clean-up, so that oyster growers who were proactive about their recovery can recoup some costs.
The State Government will also provide another 12 months of fee relief to support growers as they recover. This includes lease rental fees, licence fees for all marine farming leaseholders licenced to farm Pacific Oysters in the state and a waiver of the Tasmanian Shellfish Quality Assurance Program (TSQAP) levy and the Primary Produce Food Safety Accreditation fees. This further $793,000 fee waiver means that Tasmanian Pacific Oyster Growers will have 24 months of fee relief worth $1.6 million.
I am pleased to also announce that the Tasmanian Government has also been successful in its application for funding as part of the Australian Government’s Immediate Assistance Fund (IAF) to assist with the incident.
The funding secured through our application will fund a Biosecurity Officer and an Industry Development Officer ($260,000) and will be used to purchase an RT PCR analyser ($75,000) in order to continue to provide laboratory results on the presence or absence of disease.
The Biosecurity Officer will work with industry groups and one-on-one with producers to improve the biosecurity of their enterprises. The Industry Officer will work with the industry to look at alternative methods of management of Pacific oysters to ensure that oysters can continue to be grown sustainably in an environment infected with POMS.
The federal Fisheries Research and Development Corporation (FRDC) is also helping the industry by investing $150,000 in research and assistance to combat the effects of POMS and to accelerate the existing breeding program to produce higher levels of resistant oysters.
In total, the State and Federal governments will provide more than $9 million towards the recovery of the Pacific Oyster industry in Tasmania.
Last month, we announced that a greater range of movement of oysters within Tasmania is now permitted following the completion of an extensive testing regime to identify areas free from POMS.
Based on information and testing by Biosecurity Tasmania, three areas of differing disease risk have been determined as a basis of issuing movement permits.
The three areas are: A POMS free area across the North of Tasmania; intermediate risk areas where there is little or no evidence of disease, but a risk of introduction of the disease; and an infected area where POMS is known to occur.
The industry recovery steering committee will continue to work proactively on the long term recovery of the Pacific oyster industry, and I would like to thank the Department and Oysters Tasmania for working around the clock to ensure growers are supported. We will also continue to work closely with local government, and I have had good preliminary discussions with the South East Region Development Association (SERDA).
Information about the Oyster Recovery Loan Scheme can be found on the State Growth website: www.stategrowth.tas.gov.au/oysterrecovery
Information about the POMS investigation and POMS differing disease risk areas is available on the DPIPWE website: http://dpipwe.tas.gov.au/biosecurity/aquatic-pests-and-diseases/aquatic-biosecurity-threats/poms