As reported in the Bega District News, a group of south coast oyster farmers recently met at Wapengo Lake. Clearly working to improve their Environmental Management System (EMS), the article referred to research, initiated by the farmers, into oyster growth rates in seven south coast catchments. The results found oysters in Wapengo Lake had the highest growth rates.
In addition, the research found different parts of the lake provided the best conditions for oyster growth, at different times of the year.
The EMS coordinator pointed out that oyster farms could be influenced by other land management practises, including cows in streams and unsealed roads and tracks. Graham Major, one of the Wapengo farmers said “ . . . We owe what we have here to the local landholders – what happens on the land ends up working into the lake and that affects us greatly.”
I can attest to the work of the local land-care group, having joined them, now many years ago, to help plant trees and shrubs along Wapengo Creek. However, as indicated in the map below, much of Wapengo catchment was, until recently, State Forest. About 45% of the Wapengo is private land and most of the rest is now part of the Murrah Flora reserve.
Also indicated on the map is the most recent logging event in the catchment during 1994. Other larger areas in the south were logged in 1992 and 1993. Since that time and to the best of my knowledge, there has been no logging or deliberate burning in the forest. Although the last time the roads were graded was at least a decade ago.
The BDN also reported on recommendations from the Independent Prices and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART). Among other things the IPART draft report suggests rating oyster growers, for using land (?) below the high water mark.
Naturally, oyster growers are less than enthusiastic about the proposal.
It would appear, that in Wapengo at least, growers face significant changes to forest management practices, given proposals to introduce broad acre burning, allegedly to protect koalas.
So it’s interesting that Bega Valley Shire Council, the ultimate recipient of any rates extorted from the oyster growers, is also represented on the cabal, for want of a better word, proposing the broad acre burning and posing a threat to water quality.
It may be one of those ‘catch 22’ situations, growers who can afford to pay rates to council, do so with the knowledge that council is working to reduce water quality and oyster growth rates.