SHE may have flown back to Sydney last night but it is a safe bet NSW Minister for Primary Industries and Small Business Katrina Hodgkinson still had the Valley on her mind after literally getting a taste of it yesterday morning.
Ms Hodgkinson began her whirlwind tour of the Valley at the Clarence River Fishermen's Co-Op in Maclean, where she met with general manager Danielle Adams and members of the board to tour the facility and chat about the recent floods and their impact on the local fishing industry.
But before getting down to business, Ms Hodgkinson was treated to a taste of the local produce with an early morning sampling of Clarence River prawns and local crabs and bugs, fresh off the trawlers.
The minister was clearly impressed with the morning's tasty catch but, with time pressing, the group got down to business.
Ms Adams told the minister the recent flooding had taken a heavy toll on local fishos.
"For the first flood we had to close the co-op for pretty much 10 days," Ms Adams said.
"The second flood we closed for two days and the third flood we closed for three days - the guys just haven't been able to get out and work.
"In terms of through-put, which is what we rely on, we're down about 60 tonnes of where we were this time last year - so that's income we've missed out on."
Ms Adams, who took on the GM role about two years ago, said mother nature wasn't cutting the local industry a break.
While there was no discussion of the elephant in the room - category C disaster relief - the co-op staff took the opportunity to raise their concerns with the minister about the restructure of commercial fishing in the state. This, among other reforms, involves buying out commercial fishing licences, either voluntarily or involuntarily, of those deemed to be of latent effort, dormant or rarely used.
Ms Adams said the definition of latent effort was problematic and said there were concerns the reform would force some fishos out of the business unnecessarily, further reducing local produce through-put.
One example of assessing latent effort, she said, was that some commercial fishers had multiple licences covering different species. Depending on seasonal conditions, they might target a certain species, giving the impression their other licences weren't being used.
The co-op staff told the minister a one-size-fits-all approach wasn't the way to go and the term "latent effort" needed extra thought before it was applied in licence buy-backs.
"I think understanding each individual fishery and how they operate is the better option rather than a blanket approach," Ms Adams said.
The minister took on board the feedback and offered the co-op the chance to make an official submission on the reforms.
"We just want a system that works really well and works for everybody," Ms Hodgkinson said.
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