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Federal funding for $5m fish hatchery

Tuesday, 7th May, 2019

(From left) Cheryl Blore, Peter Hempel, Paul Roberts, Graeme McCrabb, Parkes MP Mark Coulton, Robert Bosch, Barbara Quayle, Central Darling Shire General Manager Greg Hill and Rob Gregory at Copi Hollow yesterday. PICTURE: Callum Marshall (From left) Cheryl Blore, Peter Hempel, Paul Roberts, Graeme McCrabb, Parkes MP Mark Coulton, Robert Bosch, Barbara Quayle, Central Darling Shire General Manager Greg Hill and Rob Gregory at Copi Hollow yesterday. PICTURE: Callum Marshall

By Callum Marshall

The federal government has committed $5 million to a native fish hatchery at Menindee and said they’ll be working with the locals and state government to get it delivered.

Speaking at Copi Hollow yesterday, Parkes MP Mark Coulton said the hatchery was one of several commitments the Coalition had made following the release of the recent Vertessy report into the summer’s three mass fish kills at Menindee. 

“Following on from Professor Vertessy’s report into the fish kills there was money allocated for the fish health and the health of the river,” said Mr Coulton.

“Part of that was $10 million for two fish hatcheries, one of which has been decided will be here and another one in Queensland.

“The federal government will have $5 million that will construct a hatchery here but it will be more than a hatchery.

“The design will be up to the local community in conjunction with the state government and Central Darling Shire Council. 

“But it’ll also be a facility that equipment, aerators, generators and things can be stored at so that the response will be much quicker in the future.

“When the business plan is worked out, the money is there to construct what the local community, in conjunction with the council and the state government, decide to do.”

Mr Coulton said the money for the hatchery was already locked in and was not an election promise.

“This was put in place prior to caretaker mode,” he said.

“But I wanted to be here. I didn’t want to just make an announcement and not be here. 

“I’m happy to be out here and talk to people while we do it.”

While yesterday’s announcement was welcomed by some in attendance, there were others who seemed less than convinced by the commitment and timing of it.

One said the lakes were already a great fish hatchery provided their water was kept at a good level. 

When asked, therefore, if the hatchery was a slightly hypocritical given the recent mismanagement of the Lakes, Mr Coulton said other commitments had been made to address concerns raised in Prof. Vertessy’s fish kill report.

“This is not a snow job,” he said. “Hindsight is wonderful, but the fish deaths certainly highlighted a problem.

“There’s other things that have been coming out of the Vertessy report as well. 

“One is them is the purchase of A class water upstream in the Barwon-Darling so that those low flows are protected.

“There’s a lot of money going into monitoring the river health-wise and making sure it’s going to where it’s supposed to as well.

“I’m hopeful we can get to a point where money set aside for a while now can be used to do some of the engineering in the lake, so that we can keep water here for longer and that it works more effectively. 

“And I think this hatchery can work well within an improved system.

“It’s certainly not going to fix all the problems but I think having that expertise in the area will certainly help.”

Asked about how a supply of fresh water for the fish hatchery could be guaranteed, Mr Coulton said that would be one of several elements examined in the business case.

“But hopefully, following the report alongside the re-engineering works that are going on with the lakes, we will have a secure water supply for them.

“One of the big issues that needs to be sorted out is where that supply is going to come from and where it’s going to be located.

“Also, I’m not sure how much water the hatchery would even use, so that’ll need to be worked out in the business case.”

Mr Coulton estimated about five to ten people would be employed on an ongoing basis for the management of the fish hatchery.

Yesterday’s announcement was welcomed by General Manager of the Central Darling Shire Council, Greg Hill.

“This is wonderful news for the Menindee community,” he said.

“A native fish hatchery offers promising tourism and education potential for this area.”

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