Workers rally to oppose fish research centre closure

A LARGE contingent of workers from the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre and their families descended on the local shopping mall yesterday to protest the O’Farrell Government’s decision to shut the facility down.

If the closure goes ahead, 147 staff from the centre stand to lose their jobs when research work is relocated to existing NSW Fisheries facilities at Port Stephens, Coffs Harbour and Nowra. Although employees have been offered relocation, that solution is impractical for many with families in the region.

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More than 100 people also held a silent protest at Doltone House, Sylvania, site of a Liberal Party fundraiser. The event was attended by Barry O’Farrell as guest speaker.
The protest was reportedly a well spirited event and received coverage from Channel 9 and other news outlets.
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The Cronulla rally was attended by Steve Whan, the previous Minister for Primary Industries, who was welcomed by the crowd and familiar with the work carried out at the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre.
“One of our concerns is that this is a backdoor way to cutting jobs because many people won’t want to move,” Whan told AAP.

“I don’t believe this is an appropriate research facility to relocate, a lot of the work needs to be done in the Sydney area and it’s not a sensible relocation.”

Staff at the centre have expressed disbelief that such a major decision has been taken by current Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson, who has yet to visit the Cronulla facility in her time as Minister. 

Fishing World approached Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson for further comment on the proposed closure and today received the following statement: 

“The NSW Government believes that regional NSW should play a bigger role in the future of this State and we will not stand by and neglect the needs and potential of areas outside the Sydney fringe.

“The logic behind our ‘Decade of Decentralisation’ policy is to build the infrastructure, create the jobs and bring the people.

“We want more jobs and careers for regional NSW and that is why the NSW Government intends to maintain the level of services and research currently provided by the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre.

“The decentralisation of the Cronulla site will support both population and economic growth for our regional coastal communities, as well as taking fisheries management and research closer to their clients.

“Industry has welcomed the decision, saying it makes sense to have management and research based where the fish and fishers are located.

“Excellent facilities are already in place at NSW Fisheries locations along the coast, including world-class research facilities and high-quality water at the Port Stephens centre. All technology, equipment and research undertaken at the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre is transferable and will be utilised at the new locations.

“The decentralisation process will occur over a 12 to 18-month period to protect the wellbeing of staff and ensure a smooth transition.”

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