After a series of exhaustive regional forums up and down the NSW coast to address radical reforms to the NSW fishing sector, fishermen and broader industry have voted unanimously to reject the entire process with many now asking for senior fisheries bureaucrats to be sacked.
Dane Van Der Neut, young fisherman and board member of AMA NSW, 'The NSW government has achieved a major strategic outcome through this process – they have galvanised the industry in a way never before seen in our history.
'At every public meeting a motion was placed and a vote taken asking NSW fishermen, their families and allied businesses, if they supported the Government’s reform agenda. Industry has spoken, voting against the reform program.'
Key issues arising from what can only be viewed as a series of shambolic meetings include:
o Fishermen are not against reform, but reject this reform, it’s structure and the way senior fisheries bureaucrats have handled the entire process;
o It is evidently clear that the Minister, Katrina Hodgkinson, has been poorly briefed on the true views of industry;
o Departmental brochures handed out at meetings clearly state that on key structural concerns facing industry there is '…insufficient data to address concerns.';
o Regional communities, local government, small business and allied industry sectors like restaurants and tourism, have been completely neglected by the reform;
o Fishermen will be forced to buy back the very businesses they have already paid for;
o NSW departmental bureaucrats and fisheries managers are unable or unwilling to address key concerns raised by fishermen and families at forums;
o The ‘independence’ of the process is now in genuine doubt with trust at an all time low;
o Share classes in key fisheries will be rendered worthless making it almost impossible for fishermen to exit the industry with dignity, even if they chose to do so.
Dane Van Der Neut, 'Again it’s ironic to think that if these reforms were sought for land-based primary producers we would see not only significant industry anger, but broad community outrage at how the NSW Government and the department treat farmers.
'When land based food producers struggle Governments support them. In our case though each meeting is opened with a presentation on financial hardship and counselling and yet we all run viable businesses, pay taxes, want to work and raise families.
'Something really stinks about this reform process especially when food security is completely neglected and when you consider that NSW already imports 83% of its total seafood requirement.
'The only viable solution now is for the Minister to throw this process out, sack some senior bureaucrats and start again.
'If she does this and chooses to work constructively with the primary producers of the marine environment, we will secure widespread reform while giving industry, the environment and NSW seafood consumers a strong and stable future,' ended Mr Van Der Neut. More at www.australianmarinealliance.com.au