Fishy timing for Moreton Bay farm and further arguments on the fish farming furore.

Fishy timing for Moreton Bay farm

Subscriber email – 31 August

Ben Thick, our aquaculture expert, writes:

Finally, after writhing around like a speared Snapper in the bilge of a
tinnie, the bold but doomed plan for a state-of-the-art fish farm in
Moreton Bay has been killed off. The project was the singular passion
of Dr Julian Amos, a twice-elected, twice evicted Tasmanian Environment
Minister who was instrumental in setting up the internationally
recognised Tasmanian salmon industry.

Putting aside the fishy timing (week 1 of a federal election is a great
week to get the bad news out!), the decision has significant investment
and political implications, and once again calls into question the
flawed process whereby proponents fund their own Environment Impact
Statement.

In this case, it would be fair to estimate the proponents spent around
$1 million of their own money preparing a two-year EIS, while all the
while a steady noise of back-channel advice from Government that the
project was doomed, regardless of what the EIS said.

Essentially, one side of government was batting for the project, while
the other was dead against it. The proponents were in a cleft stick,
having been invited and encouraged by the QLD government’s Department
of State Development to make their proposal – and even being shown the
ideal location for the farm by the Department of Primary Industries.

Not surprisingly, the EIS gave the project a clean bill of health, but
with nervous Bayside seats, a federal election, Green preferences, a
party full of troglodytes and a pathological inability to make hard
decisions, there was never any choice for Beattie but to kill it. The
question was how, without exposing the government to the ridicule of
the aquaculture and development industries, and opening the taxpayer to
a significant compensation claim by the proponents, given how they were
treated.

With a major shareholder in the project a partner in a major blue chip
law firm, I suspect these investors are not going to kiss away their
money like some undersized Rex Hunt catch.

And while it is now highly unlikely that any future aquaculture
proposal for Queensland will ever get up (which is a shame, given the
fact that our waters are all but fished out), the reverberations of
this policy-on-the-run will be a major negative signal to potential
investors in aquaculture or any other sunrise industry.

Further on the fish farming furore

Subscriber email – 1 September

Lenny Labor responds to aquaculture expert Ben Thick:

Party of Troglodytes? Ben really must be Thick. Here’s the National’s Leader Lawrence Springborg’s website here.

Note the quote, Ben: “One really has to question why the Beattie
Government is continuing to entertain this development proposal.

“I’m amazed that the Department of State Development, in all the time
it has had this proposal in front of them, hasn’t bothered to find the
same report and immediately put an end to this proposal once and for
all.

Now, here’s the Queensland Liberals’ website here.

“A proposed commercial fish farm to be placed smack-bang in the middle
of Moreton Bay would not go ahead under a National-Liberal Coalition
Government.”

Now Ben, tell us why, if every political party in the state is opposed
to it, why is it such good public policy? Either all parties are full
of troglodytes, or you’re just full of it, or maybe you were just full
when you wrote this bunk.

Ben Thick writes:

Lenny Labor, by his name alone, proves the decision to kill the Moreton
Bay fish farm proposal was purely political and nothing to do with
policy – because as the Queensland Conservation Council says, there IS
no framework to adequately consider these types of project, and the
application for the fish farm was destined to be a policy disaster from
the start.

My issue is not with the appropriateness of the project itself (which I
still believe is a sound environmental proposition with barely a
fraction of the nitrogen impacts compared to every other commercial use
of the Bay). Mine is with a dithering, divided, policy-free State
Government (Labor, Lenny) that deliberately encouraged a project,
invited the proponents to QLD, showed them the best site, worked
closely with them to prepare the EIS …. then killed the project
before the EIS was complete.

That may meet the short-term blinkered view of Lenny and others, but it
is not good Government. While Beattie at least went through the motions
(pardon the pun) of saying he was waiting for the EIS to be completed,
ultimately he couldn’t resist the opportunity of a federal election and
a noisy first day in state parliament to kill the project stone cold.

I am a political pragmatist, but I would ask why Lenny and his Luddites
of the Loony Left oppose a fish farm the size of a schoolyard rugby
pitch, but say nothing about the highly questionable hand-feeding of
dolphins by a commercial tourist operator (contrary to WWF policy), a
series of oyster farms that are allowed to use Moreton Bay, the massive
expansion of the international container port at the mouth of the
Brisbane River, the dredging of Moreton Bay, and the overfishing of the
region, including by trawlers turning over the apparently precious sea
grasses. The hypocrisy is breathtaking.

Lenny Labor writes:

Read all about it folks: Labor, the Liberals, Nationals together are
the Loony Left. I guess that leaves One Nation and the CEC at the
centre of the political spectrum, does it Mr Thick?

Readers can see for themselves what the QCC thinks of the Sunaqua fish farm:

Queensland Conservation Council – Save the Bay
Queensland Conservation Council – Sea cage fish farming

As I understand Ben’s argument, there are already
unsustainable/environmentally damaging industries in Moreton Bay.
Therefore, we must not impede any new industry that is also
unsustainable or environmentally damaging.

Ben’s logic is good news for the cement industry: under his arguments
they would be able to resume mining coral reefs for lime. But why stop
there? Moreton and Straddie could be canal estates! Moreton Bay was
once the home of whaling fleets – why not crank them up again?

I don’t think Ben seems to understand the implications of a planning regime based on his flawed rationale.

And now some late breaking news:

  1. Oyster farms are leases. In most cases they were originally granted before Labor came to power in 1989.
  2. It may be the size of a football field but so are small sewerage
    plants. Individual nuclear reactors are even smaller. On what planet of
    planning law does physical area override a development’s capacity or
    potential to pollute?

Finally, the last word on the issue from Nationals Leader Lawrence Springborg (Australian 9 July 2003):

However, Mr Springborg said there were other sites that could be
considered and as a matter of principle, marine parks should not be
targeted.

“It’s so illogical, the greatest comparison you could draw would be
equivalent to putting a feedlot in the middle of a national park,” he
said.