Plans floated for fish hatchery in the region

By Shepparton News

A plan for an 80ha-sized native fish hatchery for the region is being floated, should Labor retain government next month.

But Shepparton fishing enthusiast and business owner Steve Threlfall said the plan was likely to cost more than the funding initially pledged.

A local councillor meanwhile anticipated a flow-on economic impact from such a facility.

Victorian Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford, in the region yesterday, 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.

‘‘The scale is massive, 80ha,’’ Ms Pulford said. ‘‘It’s going to be big. We have a few locations in mind.’’

Ms Pulford said climate and transport links predominantly 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 and closer’’ to being real, and said it was a proposal that made sense for the Opposition to commit to.

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

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

Mr Threlfall said there would be a level of ownership attached to locals catching fish from their own region, in their own region.

He acknowledged the announcement initially came as ‘‘a bit of a surprise’’, but said the prospect of ‘‘catching the fish we breed in our local rivers’’ 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.

‘‘We’re hoping it gets bipartisan view, if there’s a coalition government... if they win, that they would also want this.’’

Keen fisherman and local councillor Dennis Patterson said the region ticked a few boxes as an ideal and ‘‘sensible’’ location for such a facility to be established.

And he hoped the facility, if built, would have a significant flow-on impact.

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

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

It would guarantee fish stocking levels with native fish bred in Victoria, a statement from Ms Pulford said this month.

‘‘Our fishing industry is booming, but Victoria is buying around four million fish a year from interstate suppliers to supplement the close to 1.7million fish bred at Victoria’s existing Snobs Creek hatchery each year,’’ the statement continued.

At the time, Ms Pulford said the Victorian Fisheries Authority was examining groundwater availability, land options and infrastructure needs for the proposed new hatchery in the Shepparton region.

‘‘They have been working closely with Goulburn-Murray Water and DEDJTR to provide best options for Victoria’s first ever dedicated native fish hatchery.’’

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