ELECTION BIG READ: CQ candidates on retaining Net Free Zones
AFTER Rockhampton Regional Council's call yesterday for all CQ candidates standing in the state election to declare where they stood on key issues facing the region, the first question has been asked.
Do you support the retention of the Net Free Zones in our region?
Labor's Rockhampton Candidate Barry O'Rourke said he supports the ALP's commitment to Net Free Zones recognising it has transformed the recreational fishing experience in Rockhampton.
"Since the commercial nets were taken out in November 2015 there has been a dramatic improvement in the quantity, size and quality of barramundi and king threadfin salmon in the Fitzroy River,” Mr O'Rourke said.
"The word has spread and the city is attracting growing numbers of tourists who come specifically to wet a line below the barrage or in the Fitzroy delta.
"This was the plan, boosted by the creation of a fish habitat area in the delta and multi-million dollar investments in boat ramps to cater for the upsurge in demand to get on the river.”
He said the Rockhampton Regional Council has developed a recreational fishing policy to capitalise on the exciting opportunities created by the net-free zone and the government will continue to work with the council to promote tourism linked to the great fishing experience.
"That's all on the back of the net free zone,” Mr O'Rourke said.
"There was a clear plan to maximise the economic benefit to Rockhampton from the river and that plan has worked and it is only going to get better.
"I have no doubt that in years to come recreational fishing will be an important contributor to the city's economy supporting businesses including accommodation providers, tackle shops, cafes, bars and restaurants and boat hire.”
Rockhampton candidate for the LNP Douglas Rodgers said the Fitzroy was a magnificent river system with great growth potential for recreational tourism and he believed the sensible move would be to leave the Net Free Zones in place.
"Although not a lot of consultation was done with the Net Free Zones being put in overnight, we'll leave the system as it is at the moment,” Mr Rodgers said.
"We have no plans to get rid of or change the the local Net Free Zones.
"We do need to review how our fisheries work so that people can still get local caught seafood because our seafood industry employs a lot of people and feeds a lot of people.”
Rockhampton candidate for One Nation Wade Rothery said he could understand how commercial fisherman may be feeling, who have lost their livelihoods and are stuck with unsaleable nets but the overwhelming feeling of recreational fisherman in the area is they agree with the Net Free Zones.
"With that said, I believe it's important we review our commercial fishing again in the near future to ensure consumers can continue to buy local fish instead of imports,” he said.
"I don't like the idea of completely shutting down industries and our commercial fishing has certainly taken a hit in the region since these laws came into place.”
Keppel candidate for One Nation Matt Loth was also in favour of retaining the Net Free Zones.
"Our fishing in this region is at the best it has been in a long time and this can be accredited to the Net Free Zone,” Mr Loth said.
LNP Keppel candidate Peter Blundell said his view was that both recreational and commercial fishing deserve a better deal and they need certainty.
"Recreational fishing is a huge draw card for tourism and part of the Keppel lifestyle, but commercial fishing also creates employment and provides locals and visitors with the quintessential Queensland food experience,” Mr Blundell said.
"The way in which the policy was handled by our local Labor members, who pitted these two sectors against each other, was appalling. The zones have been in place for two years now and compensation paid.
"To undo this now would create uncertainty moving forward so the LNP will retain the Fitzroy Net Free Zone.”
Mr Blundell said he would be working with all stakeholders, including recreational fishers, commercial fishers, wholesalers and consumers.
"In government, the LNP initiated the wide-ranging MRAG review with an unprecedented level of stakeholder engagement and input aimed at establishing a long term sustainable fishing industry that met the requirements of both commercial and recreational fishers,” he said.
"I am committed to seeing the reform process completed as outlined by the independent MRAG review of fisheries management in Queensland - as funding and resources allowed.”
Labor's Keppel MP Brittany Lauga was a strong supporter of the introduction of Net Free Zones and was pleased with the resulting improvement to fish stocks and the tourism industry.
"Rockhampton is attracting growing numbers of tourists who come specifically to wet a line below the barrage or in the Fitzroy delta,” Mrs Lauga said.
"This was the plan, boosted by the creation of a fish habitat area in the delta and multi-million dollar investments in boat ramps to cater for the upsurge in demand to get on the river.
"Rockhampton Regional Council has developed a recreational fishing policy to capitalise on the exciting opportunities created by the net-free zone.”
She had no doubt that in years to come recreational fishing would be an important contributor to the city's economy supporting businesses including accommodation providers, tackle shops, cafes, bars and restaurants and boat hire.