“The State Government has asked the QCA to investigate regulatory reforms which would boost investment in Queensland’s A$80 million aquaculture industry. Aquaculture is a high value-added industry which can, in the right locations, deliver superior returns to many traditional crops. While the industry has been growing at a respectable four per cent a year, there are concerns that its full potential is not being realised," said QCA chairman Malcolm Roberts.
“Reducing regulatory uncertainty is essential to attracting more investment. The report proposes reforms which would give investors more certainty about the best prospective sites for land-based aquaculture and the conditions for approving projects.
“Other States have created ‘development areas’ for marine aquaculture to encourage investment. The QCA believes that this approach would work well for land-based aquaculture in Queensland. Preliminary work has already been done by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry to identify appropriate sites, taking into account environmental, social and economic factors.
“An important part of making investment in these ‘development areas’ attractive is simplifying the layers of local, State and, sometimes, Commonwealth regulation. With overlapping jurisdictions, it can be difficult for investors to identify all the conditions a project will need to satisfy. Recent State Government planning reforms have streamlined state processes but there are other hurdles," said Malcolm Roberts.
“The QCA proposes a co-ordinated effort by local, State and, where appropriate, Commonwealth governments to develop a regulatory code for each development area. The code would be a public document explaining the full range of environmental, planning and other conditions which a new development would need to satisfy to be approved in the development area. Such codes would give investors much more confidence at the outset of developing a project about regulatory costs and timing of approvals.
“The process of developing specific local codes will require the involvement of all stakeholders – governments, the community and the industry. The eventual result should be a clear set of rules applying to the development of aquaculture farms.
“A particular issue is the overlap of Commonwealth and State regulations in areas adjacent to the Great Barrier Reef. The QCA recognises that the State and Commonwealth are working to ensure a co-ordinated approach to protecting the reef. The Queensland Government’s direction to the QCA is clear that regulatory reform must not diminish environmental protection. A key issue for the aquaculture industry will be access to appropriate environmental offsets," said Malcolm Roberts.
The QCA now invites everyone with an interest in this important industry to consider the recommendations in the draft report. Submissions close on 1 September 2014 with a final report to be provided to the Queensland Government later that month.