Primary Industries Minister proves to be a big catch

A CHANGE of minister has local fishers cautiously optimistic over plans to reform the industry in NSW.

The general manager of the Clarence River Fishermen's Co-operative, Danielle Adams, said the new Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair had proved to be a far better listener than his predecessor Kristina Hodgkinson.

Ms Adams said while another delay after three and a half years of uncertainty was frustrating, at least this delay has been for the right reason.

"He could easily have done what Minister Hodgkinson was going to do and steamrolled the measures through," she said.

"There's been a definite change of attitude from the minister's office since the change, even if there hasn't been a lot of change at the DPI.

"The idea we're getting from Minister Blair is he wants to get it done and done right."

Many of the most controversial proposed changes to commercial fishing laws have been dropped from the Fisheries Management Bill, to be debated at a later date.

The industry claims those reforms - that would force fishers to effectively buy back their jobs in order to continue working - would jeopardise at least 70 jobs in the Clarence and another 30 in Ballina.

The current bill introduces stronger habitat protection and biosecurity measures and authorises scientific observers to collect data from commercial and charter fishing operations.

"While observers will have authority to observe fishing activities, they will have no powers to direct fishing activities and they must not unreasonably interfere with fishing operations," Mr Blair said.

Indigenous groups would be given stronger roles in the industry and licences and charter boat seats would be transferable separate from vessels to be traded among the industry.

"It appears the minister is taking an approach to this bill that would make a virtue of pleasing absolutely no one - as if to say if no one is happy then we must be placed right in the centre and, therefore, doing something right," Labor MP Mick Veitch said.



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