Commercial fishers get extension, but it makes no difference

Ballina trawler harbour.
Ballina trawler harbour. Cathy Adams

THE deadline for NSW fishers to decide whether to buy back into the industry has been pushed back two months in what industry leaders call a pointless move.

The deadline was supposed to arrive on Friday - the same day Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair announced the extension.

He attributed the decision to an upcoming Parliamentary inquiry into the sector, which will deliver its final report on February 28, a month after the new January 30 cut-off date.

"These reforms will save the industry from its current slow decline, and give fishers certainty and hope for the future," Mr Blair said.

He noted inquiry chairman Robert Brown would circulate his interim recommendations on the share trading scheme before the final report was delivered.

Ballina Fishermen's Co-op chief executive officer Phil Hilliard said the extension would mean little for fishers who had already decided about their futures.

"At the moment, fishermen are resigned to having to spend lots of money to get their businesses back," he said.

"Getting the announcement today that it would be open for another two months... they have pretty much made their mind up by today.

"This virtually just extends the uncertainty.

"No one knows how much money they'll get if they go into this business auction system where you bid for shares, if they are available.

"It makes you wonder if anybody actually knows what they're doing.

"I've sat down several times, tried to work it out and given up."

Mr Hilliard said fishers in their 30s and 40s were under the most stress, having never had other careers and unsure if they could afford to stay in business.

"Almost 70% of the industry has already made up their mind and have committed to buying or borrowing money," he said.

"I would understand if this Upper House inquiry had the power to change some of the mechanics, but the decisions have already been made.

"How can they walk away from it now?"


Topics:  ballina fishermen's co-op commercial fishing fishing niall blair nsw

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