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Thursday, 21 March 2013
Page: 3024

Mr NEVILLE (HinklerThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (11:14): The Bundaberg fishing industry has faced one obstacle after another over the years. Many have left the industry in the wake of restrictions over fishing areas. You will all be familiar with the Fisheries (East Coast Trawl) Management Plan, which reduced trawlers from 750 to 500, and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Representative Areas Program. But following this year's record flood, which reached 9.5 metres—an all-time record—the district's fishermen are again on their knees. The Burnett River itself was scoured out, which created new channels, sand ridges and sand bars. Walls in the town were severely damaged or washed away; a trawler fuel facility was also washed away. A privately owned major storage facility and cold rooms were severely damaged, and the owners are not likely to resume operations at a level that could service the 21 trawlers that used it in the past. This means that the district's fishermen are in desperate need of a common storage and cold room facility.

It is my belief that this facility would be well suited to a location at Burnett Heads, at the mouth of the Burnett River, where flooding is less intense during times of severe weather conditions. I am proposing that the state and federal governments contribute toward a common-user facility to consolidate the industry and save the livelihoods of district fishers and the region's fishing industry. This was once a very proud industry which had, at its peak, 106 trawlers and, for many years, a stable fleet of 80 trawlers. It is now down to somewhere between 20 and 30 trawlers, and the industry will not remain stable if the ship's chandlers and shipwrights, diesel engineers, radio engineers and the like leave the town for want of work. This is a critical time for the industry, and the thing that would bind it together is a common-user facility. I propose that such a facility be managed by a cooperative of fishermen and service other fishermen who come up and down the coast—who come into, for example, Bundaberg at scallop time and have their catches treated at the port there.

I have had several meetings with the fishermen to discuss the issue, as I have with Mr Crean in his capacity as the regional development minister. Last Saturday morning I met with Premier Newman. He has an open mind to something of the nature of a common-user facility, and I intend to take the matter up with him further. When we get our figures firmed up I will also involve minister Ludwig, who has been designated the federal minister in charge of the events resulting from the recent floods. He has a very good knowledge of Queensland, particularly the coast from Gladstone down to Tin Can Bay, so I am sure he will be helpful.

This is a very important time for the livelihoods of many people. The fisherman's art goes back in human history even to biblical times. Fishermen are part of the lifeblood of the community. They hand their trawlers and their boats on to their sons and grandsons. Fishing is an important part of the fabric of primary industries communities such as Bundaberg. Given, too, that Gladstone has suffered problems with the quality of fish stocks, the southern part of the Barrier Reef fishery is in great trouble. I call on the federal ministers, the state ministers, the local authority and the port authority to come together to create a new, common-user facility both for storage and for freezing and perhaps, in time, for the processing of fish in the Bundaberg district. It is a very important venture, and I hope they will treat it with both compassion and generosity.