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EPA considers proposal for a Recirculating Aquaculture System Hatchery at Hamilton

The Environment Protection Authority (EPA) has concluded its assessment of a proposal by Tassal Operations Pty Ltd for a Recirculating Aquaculture System (RAS) Hatchery between Hamilton and Ouse in Central Highlands municipality.

The hatchery will be capable of producing smolt in a range of sizes up to 600 grams. The maximum standing biomass permitted is 750 tonnes, with a maximum annual production of 1,400 tonnes of fish. The hatchery will take water from Meadowbank Lake and recycle and treat it within the internal hatchery system. Some wastewater will result from refreshing the recirculating water and this will be pumped from the hatchery, treated to remove solids and stored in a new, purpose built wastewater reuse dam. It will be used to irrigate nearby farmland in accordance with a management plan, ensuring that no wastewater will be discharged to Meadowbank Lake.

The Chair of the EPA Board, Mr Warren Jones, said that the Board had concluded the proposed development could be managed in an environmentally sustainable and acceptable manner, provided conditions relating to the management and monitoring of odour, noise, waste and irrigation of wastewater are complied with.

Mr Jones said that while odour emissions from the hatchery and reuse scheme satisfied environmental assessment criteria, ongoing odour sampling and modelling would be required to ensure that seasonal variation and wastewater irrigation do not increase the odour risk.

“Night time noise limits will be met through the appropriate selection of equipment and mitigation options, but a review of these will be required before commencement of construction to ensure the risk of nuisance noise remains low," Mr Jones said.

“Noise will also be managed by acoustic barriers such as topographic screening and building design, together with management protocols for heavy vehicle operation to ensure noise limits are not compromised," he said.

“The Irrigation Environmental Management Plan (IEMP) indicates that effluent will meet the quality requirements for irrigation reuse, however a supplier-user agreement is required to cover the areas proposed to be irrigated," said Mr Jones.

The proposal was referred to the Board in September 2019. Public consultation was open for a 28 day period from 21 September 2019, and 85 representations were received. These raised environmental issues about water quality, noise, odour and natural values, which were addressed in the Board's assessment.

The proposal was considered by the Board in the context of the sustainable development objectives of the Resource Management and Planning System of Tasmania (RMPS) and the objectives of the Environmental Management and Pollution Control System (EMPCS) established by the Environmental Management and Pollution Control Act 1994 (EMPCA).

The functions of the Board are to administer and enforce the provisions of EMPCA, to further the RMPS and EMPCS objectives and to use its best endeavours to protect the environment of Tasmania. The assessment was undertaken in accordance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Principles defined in Section 74 of EMPCA.

The Board's decision and environmental assessment report, including the environmental conditions, have been issued to Tassal, Central Highlands Council and those who made a representation. These can be viewed on the EPA website at https://epa.tas.gov.au/assessment/assessments/tassal-operations-pty-ltd-hamilton-recirculatory-aquaculture-system-hatchery-ouse.

Central Highlands Council will now proceed with the assessment of the application under the Land Use Planning and Approvals Act 1993 (LUPAA).

The Board's decision is to grant an Environmental Licence (EL) for a finfish farm under EMPCA, which when issued to Tassal, must include the environmental conditions with which the activity must comply. The next step is for Council to determine whether or not to grant a permit for the proposal under LUPAA. Then only after the Board has been notified by Council that a permit has been granted, can the Director of the EPA issue the EL.

Any person who made a representation on the proposal during the statutory consultation period may appeal the Board's decision to the Resource Management and Planning Appeal Tribunal within 14 days of being notified. If an appeal has been lodged under EMPCA (against the Board's decision to grant the EL), the Director cannot issue the EL until the appeal is resolved. Alternatively, if the EL has been issued by the Director, it will cease to be in effect if the decision by the Council to grant a permit is appealed, until that appeal is resolved.