Shadow Treasurer and Member for Mulgrave, Curtis Pitt, says the Newman Government’s plan to shut the Northern Fisheries Centre in Cairns is false economy when there are industry operators keen to use it to tap export markets and generate jobs.

“The Northern Fisheries Centre has been operating since 1976 and has done tremendous work in fields such as monitoring fishery resources; providing habitat management; advising industry; and supporting aquaculture research and development,” Mr Pitt said.

“Centre staff last month received letters advising that their jobs are going at the end of 30 September.

“Closing the NFC will create a void and the government needs to explain how it will be filled.

“Any move by the government to shut the Northern Fisheries Centre would be an extremely short-sighted decision.

“But unfortunately the Newman Government has shown through its slash-and-burn program of sackings and services cuts that it is expert in taking short-sighted decisions.”

Mr Pitt said closure of the NFC would jeopardise new ventures being planned to tap the potentially lucrative Asian seafood market.

“I have been contacted by one industry operator who is keen to develop an aquaculture project by leveraging the expertise of the Northern Fisheries Centre,” he said.

“The proponent plans to use fingerlings produced at the NFC in Cairns for its own aquaculture facility, and local farmers would still be able to gain access to fingerlings as they currently can.

“The company has already spent months negotiating with the Newman Government only to be ambushed by news of the NFC’s planned closure.

“Under this particular proposal, the proponent suggests the 10 existing NFC jobs would be retained and an additional 50 jobs could be created.

“If the NFC shuts at the end of September as suggested it will be a huge blow to the future of potential new aquaculture ventures aimed at exporting to Asia while creating jobs locally.”

Mr Pitt said Premier Campbell Newman and Agriculture Minister John McVeigh should explain the reasons behind shutting the NFC and why they are content to see potential new jobs and export markets placed at risk by their decision.