Labor hatches fishery plan

By Country News

A plan to build a $7million hatchery has been floated by Labor, should it retain government when Victoria goes to the polls next month.

The proposal for an 80ha native fish hatchery, to be built at a yet to be disclosed location in the Greater Shepparton region, has been welcomed by Shepparton fishing figure and businessman Steve Threlfall.

Calling for a commitment from both sides of state politics, Mr Threlfall said the plan was likely to cost more than the funding initially pledged.

Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford, in the region last Thursday, said the proposal was ‘‘yet to settle on a particular block of land’’.

But she expected it would have 20 jobs in the region attached.

Ms Pulford said climate and transport links ensured the Shepparton region was considered for the proposal.

‘‘We do stock a lot of native fish and we buy them in from NSW — and we’d rather not be doing that,’’ Ms Pulford said.

Mr Threlfall was optimistic the proposal was getting closer to becoming a reality, and although he believed the costing had been underestimated, he said the project was worthwhile regardless.

‘‘I think the figure of $7million falls a bit short of its real costings,’’ he said.

‘‘I think it’s a no-brainer to build one, even if it’s twice that much, given the quantity of fish currently imported from interstate.’’

Mr Threlfall acknowledged the announcement initially came as a bit of a surprise but said the prospect of being able to catch fish in our local rivers that had been bred here was a welcome one.

‘‘It pumps up a bit of ownership for what’s going on,’’ he said.

‘‘You know it’s been locally produced ... Sort of like an environmental ownership of what’s going on.’’

Mr Threlfall said he hoped the proposal secured bipartisan support.

‘‘If there’s a coalition government ... that they would also want this.’’

The hatchery would serve to boost Victorian fish stocks, with the region’s climate hoped to allow the new hatchery to focus on breeding popular warm water native species such as Murray cod and golden perch.

Victoria currently buys about four million fish a year from interstate suppliers to supplement the close to 1.7million fish bred at Victoria’s existing Snobs Creek hatchery, at Eildon, each year.

Meanwhile, Greater Shepparton City Council’s Dennis Patterson, himself a keen fisherman, said the region ticked a few boxes as an ideal location for a hatchery to be established, and anticipated a flow-on economic impact from such a facility.

‘‘It will employ people, (and) flow through all our economic drivers,’’ Cr Patterson said.

Earlier this month, Ms Pulford said the Victorian Fisheries Authority was currently examining groundwater availability, land options and infrastructure needs for the proposed new hatchery with the assistance of Goulburn-Murray Water and DEDJTR.

In August, State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed had urged the Victorian Government to consider the Tatura Research Centre as an ideal site for a new hatchery.