Transparent as Mud…

Like many rate payers in the Glamorgan Spring Bay Council (GSBC) area, I am at a loss to understand State Government and GSBC lack of transparency over so much of Tassal’s expansion onto the east coast. The first I heard of it was a casual comment by an acquaintance late in the 2015. By early 2016, a groundswell of concern had begun with the creation of a pressure group called Marine Protection Tasmania (MPT). That group, under the energetic direction of Wilhelmina Rea, has fought tirelessly for answers as to why it could be considered acceptable on any level, that an industrial fish farm be allowed to enter our iconic coastal waters.

MPT has managed to uncover much that is rotten in the industry and whilst the media has proved instrumental in getting that message out, at no point has government at any level, or Tassal, the company concerned, really engaged in depth and face to face with concerned ratepayers. In my view, it has been token consultation showing no sign of really listening.

Today, after hearing our Minister for Primary Industry, Jeremy Rockcliff claim on ABC Radio (14th June, Leon Compton Mornings) that he has listened to and engaged with the community, I decided I was tired of the empty and tiresome political rhetoric.

He has not listened.

He may have answered a few emails here and there, but the answers have been formulaic and lacking in any substance.

(Work has begun on the area intended for the 190 metre jetty to service Tassal’s expansion.)

If Minister Rockcliff wants to truthfully claim he has engaged with the community, he might like to openly answer questions that exist amongst local ratepayers who will vote at next year’s State election:

  1. When has he engaged face to face with the disaffected people who are most concerned about the Okehampton Bay lease being farmed by Tassal, a company with a poor environmental record that is easily documented?
  2. Why did he not protect the remaining 1% of Mercury Passage – the piece crucial to Orford and Triabunna voters?
  3. Why hasn’t he paid full attention to the comments made by a medical practitioner about the loss of social cohesion and the creation of a toxic social environment in Triabunna?
  4. If part of the Salmon Industry Sustainability Plan, due in September, is meant to stop fish farming in 99% of Mercury Passage why can’t the Minister protect the rest of the east coast from any further expansion by Tassal or any other fish company? Can the Minister categorically deny that expansion isn’t extending to Point Bailly in the Great Oyster Bay region and points further north?
  5. What concrete evidence is there that tourism and fish farming can cohabit?
  6. What insurance can the Minister give to professional fishers that their areas of catch will not be damaged or diminished?
  7. What assurances can he give to recreational fishers and others who pursue recreational activities (swimming, diving, kayaking, boating) that their amenity will in no way be affected by Tassal’s 28 pen/800,000 fish development?
  8. What assurance can he give Orford ratepayers that their history (the 1845-1847 Convict Track and Probation Station) will not be adversely affected by works to install the Council funded pipeline to provide water to Tassal and Solis.
  9. What assurance can he give Orford voters, that if Taswater goes under government control, that a) they will always have as much water as they require b) that they will not be financially penalised in any way (by increased water charges and increased rates) for the development of this multi-million scheme mainly being developed to provide water to profit focused companies.
  10. Why did the government appoint Wes Ford (who was consistently in support of super trawlers) as head of the Environmental Protection Agency which is supposed to protect Tasmania and its waters?
  11. Why has the government allowed the EPA, to become so focused on the social (jobs) and economic (payroll tax) elements of fish farming, forcing the environment to be pushed into the background?

(Flag designed for use at this coming Sunday’s flotilla by boat owners)

(This is the clean water in which I swim and kayak in Spring Bay – its why I support MPT and what it is doing!)

If Mr. Mark Ryan, CEO of Tassal wishes to claim open and transparent management of the east coast expansion, he might like to answer these questions:


  1. Why has Mr. Ryan himself made no real effort to meet personally with the disaffected east coast residents to discuss social licence and allay fears?
  2. Why does Tassal think that social licence can be bought by funding the local pony club, golf club, free t-shirts for the schools, and most lately, approaching the Surf Life Saving Society to fund aspects of their activities?
  3. Why does Tassal need a 190 metre jetty for just 28 pens in Okehampton Bay?
  4. Why, if Tassal has acquired a desalination barge, do they need to pipe fresh water from the Prosser River?
  5. What do Tassal intend to contribute to the development of the water scheme and what ongoing cost will be paid, for water they will take from the scheme?
  6. Is it fact that Tassal will pay less that $50,000 a year to State Government for access to the Okehampton Bay lease?
  7. What guarantee can Mr Ryan give residents in Barton Avenue, Louisville and Shelly Beach that their amenity to live quietly and in peace will not be damaged by the operation of the on shore facility?
  8. What guarantee can Mr.Ryan give residents in Louisville, Shelly Beach, Spring Beach and Stapleton that their property values will not drop because of the view of an industrial zone from their properties?
  9. What guarantees can Mr. Ryan give all residents in the above-mentioned areas that their recreational coastal amenity will not be damaged by the industrial pollution that has occurred in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Macquarie Harbour?
  10. What guarantee can Mr. Ryan give the ratepayers of the above-mentioned that Tassal has no plans to expand beyond Okehampton Bay (specifically Point Bailly near Grindstone Bay and other points north).

And further, if Mr. Michael Kent, Mayor of Glamorgan Spring Bay Council, wants to reclaim a vestige of integrity with his ratepayers, after dismissing them as ‘shackies’ and ‘knockers’ and after walking out of a public meeting, perhaps he would like to answer the following questions?

  1. Why hasn’t the Mayor and Council actively advised ratepayers that permits for the water scheme and other developments to support Tassal’s plans are being considered, rather than just putting notices on the GSBC website and in newspapers?
  2. What impact will servicing the borrowings for the Prosser Plains Raw Water Scheme have on rates in GSBC?
  3. When was the last time Mr. Kent actively sought to consult with groups such as MPT , Tarfish and RecFish that represent concerned citizens?

Just as sustainability is more than creating jobs and growing a company, transparency is much more that glossy corporate brochures and notices on websites. It’s about really engaging with communities, actively listening and responding in a considered and detailed way.  And when the waters of the East Coast, the property of ALL Tasmanians, are at the centre of the issue then politicians and company people really need to clear away the mud. . . 

What are the chances, do you think, of receiving any answers at all from any one of these position-holders?

I would say ‘Buckleys.’