Oyster farmers will have almost $1.6 million in annual lease and licence fees waived over the next two years after the state government announced it would honour the Labor party policy announced prior to the state election.
The Marshall government will also aim to implement their election promise of restructuring aquaculture leases by the end of the year by amending the Aquaculture Act 2001, allowing existing aquaculture lease holders to borrow against their leases.
The policies are a response to the Pacific Oyster Morality Syndrome (POMS) outbreaks in Tasmania in 2016, which saw South Australian growers unable to import Tasmanian spat to grow on their farms.
That outbreak, in February 2016, caused close to 100 per cent mortality of oysters in some farmed areas.
Cowell oyster grower Mark Jarvis said the relief was a “good move by the government.”
“From lease fees, I’ll save about $12,500 a year, which can go towards an employee,” Mr Jarvis said.
Mr Jarvis’ business, Oysters Amalgamated, is currently working at about 30 per cent capacity.
“Growers are making the most of their time by moving and rebuilding leases, stuff that we wouldn’t normally get at full capacity,” he said.
Minister for Primary Industries Tim Whetstone said the Liberal’s were honouring the previous government’s support to the industry and would waive the fees.
“We are committed to supporting our oyster growers and the many associated regional jobs as they recover from recent POMS outbreaks,” Mr Whetstone said.
“The state government is here to support the industry and help growers get back on their feet.
“There are now four commercial oyster hatcheries operating in South Australia, supplying spat to South Australian oyster growers.”
Opposition primary industries and regional development spokesman Eddie Hughes said he was sure the industry would be appreciative that the Liberals were not scrapping the relief but “it was a bit rich of Tim Whetstone to claim it as his own.”
“There are more than 90 oyster growers in South Australia and they are a hugely important part of the state’s regional development,” Mr Hughes said.
A temporary ban on the transport of live oysters and oyster farming equipment from Tasmania has been extended to March 31, 2019.