Worried her small voice was not being heard in Tasmania’s crowded blueberry rust debate, Hellen Fowler launched a petition that she plans to present to Biosecurity Tasmania.
Ms Fowler lives at Moonah and works at Blueberry Boost Tea, which is based at Oyster Cove, near Kettering.
Blueberry Boost has a blueberry orchard, grown using permaculture techniques, but relies on other growers throughout the state to help supply the berries and leaves needed to create its tea.
- Blueberry rust inquiry hears allegations of unfair treatment
- Blueberry rust inquiry stirs up emotions for growers
- Fourth blueberry rust case detected at Kentish property
The business made a submission to the Legislative Council Inquiry into Blueberry Rust but has not been asked to appear before the committee, so Ms Fowler took matters into her own hands.
“We will go [to the inquiry]. We think our our voice is not being heard. As far as a blueberry farm goes we’re tiny because we have only a few thousands plants,” Ms Fowler said.
“I want 100 signatures to present to Biosecurity Tasmania, but if we could get to more than that it would be awesome,” she said.
The petition was launched on the Change.org website on Monday and by Wednesday morning had passed 100 signatures.
Like many stakeholders, Blueberry Boost relies on Tasmania having a healthy blueberry industry.
“We rely on other orchards. If [blueberry rust] gets out of hand we won’t have clean suppliers,” Ms Fowler said.
“It’s a huge dilemma for us. We need tonnes of leaves and fruit each year. Tasmania really is the only place we can source good fruit and leaves that aren’t sprayed,” she said.
The tea, which is part of a diabetes research trial by the Menzies Institute, aids cholesterol, sleep and other health ailments, Ms Fowler said.
A Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment department spokesperson said the department recognised the value of the blueberry industry to Tasmania and to individual farmers.
“That is why we have worked with interstate authorities to enable ongoing market access for our state’s growers as well as ensure they have assistance in reducing the risk of movement of the disease,” the spokesperson said.
“The measures put in place following the 2016 detection were developed after assessing a wide range of information, such as likelihood of success of eradication, the impacts on growers if eradication was attempted, and market access issues,” the spokesperson said.
Department staff will continue to liaise with growers about blueberry rust in Tasmania and inform them of relevant information.
“The containment measures at infected properties, which remain in place, were recognised by interstate authorities and have enabled market access to states with blueberry rust restrictions in place,” the spokesperson said.