Marron are a freshwater crayfish native to the inland waters of South Western Australia. There is commercial value in Marron, both through aquaculture on private land and sale of Marron as a food delicacy, and through fishing-related tourism on public land. There is considerable growth potential for Marron aquaculture on private land; however, growth is inhibited by excessive and unnecessary 'red tape' and associated costs imposed by both State and Local Governments. Here, some of the issues are examined and recommendations for changes are made.
 

SUMMARY: Marron aquaculture in the Shire of Manjimup is regulated by two levels of government, both State and Local Government. Some of the regulation does not benefit the public interest and may be inhibiting growth of the Marron aquaculture industry in the Shire of Manjimup.

Recommendation 1  - The Department of Fisheries reduce fees for Marron aquaculture licenses and extend the duration of Marron aquaculture licences to 5 years.

Recommendation 2  - The Department of Fisheries amend their policy approach to enable a person to hold a Marron aquaculture licence for multiple locations. 

Recommendation 3 - The Shire of Manjimup amend its Town Planning Scheme when next issued, to reclassify Marron aquaculture from “AA”, being a use which is not permitted unless approval is granted by Council,  to “P” , a use that is permitted under the Scheme.

1. Background

At the 10 November 2005 meeting of the Shire of Manjimup Economic Development Advisory Committee it was raised that a local farmer had been concerned at a $400 annual fee required by the Department of Fisheries (Western Australia) for Marron aquaculture. Recognising the importance of Marron aquaculture to the regional economy, the Committee resolved to consider a report on government licensing, approvals and fees for Marron aquaculture, which is the subject of this brief prepared by Neil Bartholomaeus of Jardee in December 2005. 

2. Scope of Review and Sources of Information

This brief reviews the licensing requirements of the WA State Government Department of Fisheries (WA) and Local Government approval required by the Shire of Manjimup. Information was sourced from relevant Acts and Regulations, agency web sites, by discussion with officers of State and Local Government agencies, examination of approvals granted and discussions with Marron aquaculture license holders.  

3. Department of Fisheries Licensing and Fees

Aquaculture licenses are issued under the Fish Resources Management Act 1994 and Regulations 1995, administered by the Department of Fisheries. The Act states: 

92. Grant of aquaculture licence  (1) If a person applies to the Executive Director for the grant of an aquaculture licence and the Executive Director is satisfied that -
(a) the person is a fit and proper person to hold such a licence;
(b) it is in the better interests of the aquaculture industry to grant the licence;
(c) the activities to be conducted under the licence are unlikely to adversely affect other fish or the aquatic environment; and

(d) the activities to be conducted under the licence have been approved by other relevant authorities, the Executive Director may grant to the person an aquaculture licence.
 

The Department of Fisheries issues two licenses (authorisations) relevant to Marron aquaculture: 

3.1 Aquaculture Licence - Marron

This type of licence replaces the previous “Marron - Unrestricted licence type. This licence allows the holder to sell any size of marron to any class of person for either stocking purposes or to the food market. There are no restrictions on sale. The holder must demonstrate infrastructure greater than 2500m2 of impounded water. Fees for 2005-2006 are:

Fee for initial application for the licence                                            $140.00
Fee for application for renewal of the licence                                    $  70.00
Fee for the grant or renewal of an authorisation                                 $295.00

Initial and recurring cost of fees are:

Cost of licence for first year: $140+ $295 =         $435.00
Cost of licence subsequent years: $70 + $295 = $365.00

3.2 Aquaculture Licence - Marron (Limited)

This type of licence replaces the “Marron - Farm Dam Trapping” type of licence. This licence allows property owners to sell marron produced in ‘farm dams’ (private waters) provided that undersize marron (less than 76mm carapace length) cannot be sold and marron can only be sold to the holder of an “Aquaculture Licence - Marron” or the holder of a “Fish Processors Licence” i.e. a holder may (1) only sell marron of a length not less than 76 millimetres (2) only sell marron to the holder of (a) an Aquaculture Licence-Marron; or (b) a Fish Processor’s Licence (for large scale processing not addressed in this brief). The applicant must demonstrate ownership or occupancy of private property containing privately impounded water. Fees for 2005-2006 are:

Fee for initial application for the licence                                            $140.00
Fee for application for renewal of the licence                                    $  70.00
Fee for the grant or renewal of an authorisation                                 No Fee

Initial and recurring cost of fees are:

Cost of licence for first year: $140.00
Cost of licence subsequent years: $70.00

 3.3 Licence Application Format

The Department of Fisheries Marron Aquaculture Licence application and information submission format is not complex and could reasonably be completed by a person who wasn’t an expert in aquaculture but rather venturing in aquaculture as a minor component of a land use income mix. However, where ‘other approvals’ (reference is made to the Waters and Rivers Commission, Local Government and Environment Protection Authority) are to be considered there are grounds for confusion as to what extent approval is required. In general, no specific approvals are required for Marron aquaculture under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 and the Environment Protection Act 1986. Approval by Local Government is required for both types of Marron aquaculture licenses, and appears to the focus of section 92(1)(d) of the Fish Resources Management Act requiring that “the activities to be conducted under the licence have been approved by other relevant authorities”. The Aquaculture Licence - Marron licence application requires that “Local Government authority approval must be attached certifying that development can proceed.”  The Aquaculture Licence - Marron (Limited) licence requires that “You should ensure that your application meets the requirements of your Local Government Authority.”.  The requirements of the Shire of Manjimup are addressed at 4. below. 

3.4 Marron Consignment Notes

The Fish Resource Management Regulations 1995 requires holders of Marron aquaculture licences to attach approved forms containing details of sales transactions to all consignments of Marron. The Regulations state: 

 “69. Conditions of aquaculture licence  An aquaculture licence is subject to the following conditions

(a) the holder of the licence must ensure that fish is not sold under the authority of the licence unless it is packed in the manner specified by the Executive Director;

(b) where marron is sold on a retail basis, the holder of the licence who is selling the marron, must provide to the purchaser a receipt specifying (i) the names of the holder of the licence and the purchaser; (ii) the number and type of fish; and (iii) the value and date of the sale;

(c) where marron is sold on other than a retail basis, the holder of the licence who is selling the marron, must prepare a consignment note in triplicate in a form approved by the Executive Director and must (i) securely attach the original of the consignment note to the marron or to the receptacle, container or package containing the fish; (ii) send the duplicate copy of the consignment note to the head office of the Department at Perth; or if another office of the Department is specified in the approved form of the consignment note, to that office, to arrive within 7 days after the sale; or if a greater period is specified in the approved form, within that period; and  retain the triplicate copy at the place where aquaculture is carried out under the licence.”  

Larger Marron producers with whom Regulation 69 was discussed appear to support these provisions as inhibitors to Marron ‘poaching’/theft. It appears the main use the Department of Fisheries makes of the consignment note returns is for statistical purposes, which could otherwise be met from annual returns on production.  

 4. Shire of Manjimup Approval of Marron Aquaculture

The first point of approval required to be obtained by a Marron aquaculture venture in the Shire of Manjimup is from the Shire. The head of power for approvals required and issued by the Shire is under Town Planning Scheme No 2 of 2004 made under the Town Planning and Development Act 1928. Definitions (Interpretations) under the Scheme classify ‘aquaculture’ as fish farming (including Marron farming operations) for which a licence is required from the Department of Fisheries, and all aquaculture is defined or classified as ‘agriculture - intensive’. It is understood the Shire approves approximately 10 Marron aquaculture proposals a year, and that no proposals have been rejected.  

4.1 Shire’s Approval Requirements

The Shire’s Marron aquaculture documentation states: 

In assessing planning applications for aquaculture proposals, the Shire has regard to the potential impact on adjacent rural and agricultural activities and the effect on existing water resources in the locality. The Shire is not prepared to approve proposals that are in conflict with adjacent rural or agricultural activities. A fully completed Planning Application form and the appropriate fee need to be lodged with the Shire. A locality plan and a site plan showing all existing and proposed development on the subject property (see the attached example) need to be included with the application, together with the completed Management Plan form”.  

        Fee for application for Shire approval                                              $150.00 

Under Town Planning Scheme No 2 Marron aquaculture is classified as ‘AA’ being a use that is not permitted unless approved by the Council, and all applications are subject to advertisement/notice to adjacent landholders and to relevant Government agencies to provide opportunity for comment and objections.  

4.2 Shire’s Required Marron Aquaculture Management Plan

In submitting a Marron aquaculture proposal for approval by the Shire, the applicant is required to complete a 21 point Marron Aquaculture Management Plan, which requires far greater detail of information than that required by the Department of Fisheries licence application forms referred to at 3.3 above. For example, applicants are required to provide information on maintenance of water pH and temperature, the type of fencing of ponds and dams, and the nature of vehicular access to each pond, dam and tank.  

5. Discussion and Recommendations 

Before discussing specific regulation of the Marron aquaculture industry by the Department of Fisheries and the Shire of Manjimup through licensing and approvals, consideration should be given to its land use environmental impacts and regulatory provisions that generally apply to Marron aquaculture. Relevant land use considerations are:

  • Marron aquaculture uses low volumes of water compared to ‘traditional’ agricultural and rural land uses such as irrigation horticulture
  • Water required for Marron aquaculture is separately regulated by the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914, as is water for other land use purposes
  • Low water consumption commercial land uses will become increasingly important as demands on water supplies increase and a possible charge for water is introduced
  • Marron aquaculture doesn’t use control agents or ‘pesticides’ (herbicides, insecticides, antibiotics) that might pollute water, ground, air and food chains
  • Marron aquaculture introduces low nutrient burdens to water systems compared to ‘traditional’ land uses requiring fertilisers
  • Any pollution associated with Marron aquaculture is addressable by the general provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1986; Marron aquaculture is not a Prescribed Premises for which Works Approval and Licence is required under the Environmental Protection Act (fin fish and prawn aquaculture are prescribed)

The Department of Fisheries ‘State of the Fisheries’ report 2003/04 (page 213) states “Marron farms present a low risk to the environment because there is relatively little water discharged from these facilities.” Thus Marron aquaculture as a land use has a low impact on water systems and the rural environment and is subject to general provisions of State Government statutes (Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914, Environmenalt Protection Act 1986). Marron aquaculture as a commercial activity is subject to general provisions of Commonwealth, State and Local Government laws regulating commerce. Structures that may be associated with Marron aquaculture, eg sheds, are subject to relevant Local Government requirements that apply to similar structures for other rural land uses. Public health issues associated with the consumption and storage of Marron are subject to relevant State and Local government provisions. 

In considering whether or not specific regulation of a commercial activity based on freehold land is in the public interest, there must be demonstrable actual or potential detriment to the public interest to justify regulation by government of the private activity. Such detriment is not apparent with Marron aquaculture when considered in context with other land use activities which are not similarly regulated. Further, best practice in public administration encourages regulation of an activity by the most appropriate level of government (either Commonwealth, State or Local) and government enforcement agency. Whereas with Marron aquaculture, both State and Local Governments regulate a production activity on freehold land which has no obvious potential to damage the public interest, or other private interests.  

In 2002/03, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were 187 producers licensed for Marron aquaculture in WA. The peak Marron production over the period 1998/99 to 2002/03 was 52 tonnes; in contrast, the less regulated Yabby aquaculture industry had a peak production of 210 tonnes over the same period. Department of Fisheries licences are required for Yabby processors and commercial harvesters. However, in contrast to Marron, Agricultural farms may sell yabbies without a licence to licensed farmers/processors. Perhaps less regulation of Marron aquaculture would lead to greater production of Marron? 

5.1 Recommendations regarding Department of Fisheries Licensing and Fees

In discussions with Marron aquaculture licence holders there were three main issues raised in regard to Department of Fisheries licensing and fees:

  • The high cost of fees. The $140 fee for initial application for a Marron aquaculture licence must be added to the $150 fee required for application for approval of aquaculture by the Shire of Manjimup. Although some producers felt the $70 annual renewal cost of the Aquaculture Licence - Marron (Limited) was not unreasonable, the main concerns related to the $435 initial and $365 annual cost of the Aquaculture Licence - Marron. In contrast to these fees for Marron aquaculture, there is no fee required by the Department of Environment for a Licence to Take Water under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914, either for initial application and assessment or for the licence itself
  • The one year validity of a licence, thus requiring annual submission and costs for renewal. In contrast, a Licence to Take Water under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914 is for 10 years duration and there are no fees. Aquaculture ventures based on new infrastructure require major private expenditure, a one year licence framework is an impediment to business planning and perhaps unreasonable
  • One Aquaculture business person requires separate aquaculture licences (and multiple fees) for each locality at which they intend to conduct Marron aquaculture. For example, John Brown lives on his farm in Manjimup with 2x dams on Locality 11111, and owns another property with 3x dams on Locality 22222 in Pemberton 20kms away; John Brown/the person/applicant is required to have two Aquaculture licences, one for each location. This appears to be inconsistent with the Fish Resources Management Act 1994 at 92(1) which turns upon a ‘person’ holding a licence, not licensed premises/places/localities. On enquiry with the Department of Fisheries on this matter, I was advised their approach on multiple localities was based on ‘policy’

The strongest rationale supporting Department of Fisheries licensing of Marron aquaculture on freehold land appears to be to prevent illegal commercial exploitation of Marron in public waters on Crown Land which are the basis of a recreational fishery.  It appears the main instrument through which this regulatory program is enforced is through Marron consignment notes to track movement of Marron during transport to market. It would be of concern if the high cost of Marron aquaculture licenses is to offset the cost to the Department of Fisheries of processing the required consignment notes. 

There are over 20,000 recreational Marron and freshwater fishing licenses issued each year for revenue in excess of $400,000. There were 10 prosecutions for recreational offences in 2003/04. Both recreational Marron fishing and commercial Marron aquaculture are important to the Shire of Manjimup. However, the $22 annual cost for a recreational licence to capture Marron from the public estate is considerably less than the $435 cost of an Aquaculture - Marron licence, where often holders are simply harvesting Marron from their own dam/s and wish to access markets that provide the best return. Holders of Marron aquaculture licenses are not receiving any obvious direct service from the Department of Fisheries to justify this level of fee to participate in a market. In discussions with Marron producers, in instances of alleged ‘poaching’ of Marron from aquaculture premises, the Police Service were regarded as more relevant than the Department of Fisheries in apprehension of ‘poachers’.  

Recommendation 1 - The Shire of Manjimup request the Department of Fisheries reduce fees for Marron aquaculture licenses and extend the duration of Marron aquaculture licences to 5 years.

Recommendation 2 - The Shire of Manjimup request the Department of Fisheries amend their policy approach to enable a person to hold a Marron aquaculture licence for multiple locations. 

5.2 Recommendations regarding Shire of Manjimup Approval

There doesn’t appear to be any valid rationale as to why Local Government, in this instance the Shire of Manjimup, should require Council approval of low impact Marron aquaculture under Town Planning provisions, other than because the Department of Fisheries requires Local Government authority approval. The requirement for application for Local Government approval in this instance is contrary to sound public administration practice and causes unnecessary delays and costs. The illogicality of the requirement is evident with potential ‘farm dam’ based Marron aquaculture, where often the owner of the land has harvested Marron for private consumption for many years, then with no change to the nature of the activity except the Marron will be sold, there arises requirement for both approval by Local Government (under Town Planning provisions) and licensing by the Department of Fisheries.  

Recommendation 3 - The Shire of Manjimup amend its Town Planning Scheme when next issued, to reclassify Marron aquaculture from “AA”, being a use which is not permitted unless approval is granted by Council,  to “P”, a use that is permitted under the Scheme.  Reclassification of Marron aquaculture to “P”, a use that is permitted under the Scheme, would constitute approval by the Local Government authority for purposes of application to the Department of Fisheries for a Marron aquaculture licence. Note, other forms of aquaculture should continue to be classified “AA” requiring approval by Council, as some may be activities prescribed by the Environmental Protection Act 1986  (fin fish and prawns) and be exotic fish species. 

5.3 Access to Information

Where government agencies require commercial activities to be licensed and approved, such as with Marron aquaculture, it is important relevant information be readily accessible. In addition to telephone and print, information provided on web sites is a convenient format, especially for ‘out of hours’ access by businesses in rural areas where telephone contacts with government agencies during business hours may be inconvenient. It should be noted the Department of Fisheries web site information on aquaculture licensing fees was out of date and regional Marron aquaculture development contact details were incorrect. Similarly, the Shire of Manjimup web site fees and charges document was for 2003-2004 and could not be opened, and application for aquaculture approval documents links were ‘page not found’. These are obvious areas for improvement of government requirements for Marron aquaculture. 

If you have comments on Marron aquaculture licensing and approvals please contact neil@jardee.com .
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