Fish farmer can hatch new plan

IT WAS showing signs of troubled waters for a Booral fish hatchery at the council’s meeting on Wednesday but finally Ross Meaclem got his preliminary okay to use a new shed to grow soft shell crabs and sea cucumbers.

Bluefin Seafoods’ Mr Meaclem has been hatching fish and cucumbers on his Booral waterfront property for more than five years.

But for much of those years he’s been “stymied’ as he puts it.

“It’s been a bit of a battle to get through all the regulations so I haven’t been able to do as much as I would have liked,” Mr Meaclem said.

The fish farmer, who runs his farm on salt water, told councillors he’d been having a tough financial time, that an official government aquaculture zone was imminent for the area from Tin Can Bay to Bundaberg and one day he’d like to stock the Sandy Strait.

“But we can’t survive at our hatchery in our present form so I really need the additional 350sq m of shed I’m asking for,” he said.

“I’d like you to see the bigger picture.”

In recent months Hervey Bay has lost at least one hatchery and one fish farm after owners gave up fighting the council. The hatchery owner is now working as a roads foreman at Weipa and the fish farmer has transferred his investment to India.

So as councillor Gerard O’Connell said in great earnest: “This is our chance to endorse a product and business of which the applicant guarantees the viability.”

Meanwhile the debate burgeoned. Councillors Sue Brooks and Belinda McNeven had lots of questions about Mr Meaclem’s hatchery plans, including why was council dealing with the matter retrospectively, was the caretaker’s residence on the property “as of right”, why wasn’t the driveway sealed because home business applicants in that area were generally required to seal their driveways, had the cultural heritage issue “satisfied another agency”, that the recommended three-metre vegetation buffer be extended to six metres, and why wasn’t the landscaping requirement set down as needing council’s approval?

The councillors finally gave preliminary permission for Mr Meaclem to raise his baby crabs and cucumbers in the nice new shed – providing he met the stated conditions, with the added one of requiring the landscaping plan to be approved by council.

Mr Meaclem said he was hoping to farm 600,000 cucumbers a year but wasn’t sure about his baby crabs because they had to be fed twice a day.

And the neighbours will lose their water view as he creates the council’s required vegetation buffer.

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