Friday, 16 December 2016

TASMANIA: Choose Between Ssalmon Farming And Tourism

Tasmania's East Coast has a choice to make between tourism and salmon farming, or it risks facing another "forestry war-type scenario", millionaire environmentalist Graeme Wood says.

The region has struggled following a downturn in the forestry industry, especially the town of Triabunna, which was once home to Gunns' woodchip mill.

Mr Wood has submitted a development application to convert the Triabunna mill into a tourism site, which would include accommodation, a restaurant and conference centre.

But he said his plans were being undermined by aquaculture giant Tassal's proposal to farm salmon nearby at Oakhampton Bay.

"I think it's pretty dumb," he said of the fish farming plan.

"There's a big choice here for the regulators and the Government to say, 'Is this east coast about tourism or do we want to go through a forestry war-type scenario between fish farmers and tourists?'"

The development application for the mill site is set to be considered by council in January. Mr Wood said he hoped work would start soon after, and that the first guests would arrive by the end of the year.

Mr Wood purchased the mill five years ago and estimated about $25 million would be spent on the project, which would pay homage to its past.

"What we're very keen to do here is read the power of the site itself," architect Rachel Neeson said.

"So we're keeping everything. I guess the design approach has been keep everything, make safe, dust off the bits that you're going to use."

But Mr Wood is concerned plans to put 28 salmon pens around the headland from his property would have a "severe impact" on the tourism venture.

"The pollution out there would be bad, the noise, the physicality of it. Right next door they're planning to put some kind of plant on land," he said.

"It would be less than optimum, shall we say."

A development application for the land-based plant has passed council and will now be considered by the planning commission.

"The fact that the DA was waved through council I find astounding, not just us but thousands of other people have objected and we look forward to fighting it in the planning commission," Mr Wood said.

Other tourism operators have also raised concerns and made submissions to a review of the salmon farming plan opposing the development.

Glamorgan Spring Bay Council mayor Michael Kent said Triabunna was "decimated" by the forestry war and that his focus was on creating jobs.

"We'll take every opportunity to endeavour to get as many jobs out of these situations as we can," he said.

He said he did not believe the salmon farm would affect tourism operators.

"It doesn't affect tourism, that's what I can't get through to people," he said.

"Tourism can't see 28 pens, no roads, they just can't see them. So it won't affect tourism one iota, unless they want to get in a boat and go around and have a look."

Linda Sams from Tassal said she believed the salmon farm could actually add tourism value.

"It's a very interesting development. It's integrated, multi-trophic aquaculture, which is innovative and new. We're showing seaweed and shellfish and fin fish, so I think it'll be a bit of an attraction," she said.

Ms Sams insisted Tassal's impact would be limited.

"We know we're going to have a localised impact where we're farming and that's where the fish waste is going to drop to the bottom, but we have highly predictive models now that tell us the scope of that, we need to have that stay within our lease."

The salmon industry in Tasmania has come under scrutiny this year over the condition of Macquarie Harbour, where three companies farm salmon.

The state's Environment Protection Authority is reducing the amount of fish allowed to be stocked there because oxygen levels in the water are so low.

The EPA found one of Tassal's leases in the harbour had 14 instances of bacteria spreading outside the lease site.

"We have three sites in Macquarie Harbour and only one has had issues with compliance. We're acting on that really quickly, we're responding quickly so the site can remediate," Ms Sams said.

"We're emptying our Franklin site completely, we're in the process of organising all that, all those fish will go to harvest and we don't have any plans at this point to restock it."

Mr Wood said the salmon farm would not stop his plans.

"It won't stop it because I don't think they'll get it up. But if they do, I'll be the neighbour from hell."