Pearler of a business gets grant

AN innovative pearl farm in the Terranora broadwater has won a grant for $48,950 to create an interactive tourist destination.

The Birds Bay Pearl Farm is a business venture started by husband and wife team Lee and Robert Eyre 18 months ago.

They run the family business Perfect Tours and first considered a pearl venture after visits to Broome and Perth.

"People have a real fascination for pearls," Lee said yesterday.

The money will be used to partially fund a pontoon which will allow the company's boats access to the pearl farm and to also create an education facility.

Along the way, the project will clean up the Terranora Lakes oyster farm area, foreshore and onshore, which will have a positive impact on the regions environment.

The funding came from the Sustainable Regions Programme because of the oportunities to expand tourism and create jobs.

Although the floods have destroyed almost all the oyster pearls they had, the Eyres will continue to develop a working Akoya pearl oyster farm and an educational facility on the marine environment, mangrove species and bird life.

The educational facility will also feature local indigenous culture.

Schools, local and international, will receive educational material produced by this facility, and they will also be able to learn more about all aspects of pearl oyster farming.

Nationals NSW Senator Sandy Macdonald said the concept offered the potential to deliver substantial employment outcomes to existing regional oyster farmers.

"The knowledge and experience gained from the Birds Bay Pearl Farm can be shared with local farmers to ensure a sustainable and viable industry," Senator Macdonald said.

Far North East NSW has been allocated up to $12 million under the programme until June 2006, to support the projects that will provide long-tern strategic benefits to the community.

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