Small Tasmanian blueberry growers said there were different biosecurity rules for bigger growers at the first inquiry hearing into blueberry rust in Launceston last week.
Aviemore Farm supplies blueberries to supermarkets and grocers throughout Tasmania and mainland markets, but owners Rachel DeWit and Steve Clements feel smaller growers have been unfairly treated by Biosecurity Tasmania when it comes to following quarantine protocols.
“Protocols for [blueberry rust] containment were put forward to Costa, but they said they were too expensive. Costa said it was too hard and didn’t do it,” Mr Clements said.
This fight is not just about blueberries; I feel it’s for the state.
Ms DeWit said pickers entered their Gravelly Beach property through locked gates and had to use a foot bath and wash their clothes in the machine supplied on site.
“Costa supplies washing powder [to pickers], but not suits. They could wash clothes at home,” Ms DeWit said.
“No enforcement of a protocol is the same as no protocol at all. If they’re not doing that, and there’s no penalty, why should I bother?” Mr Clements said.
The couple also told the Legislative Council Inquiry into Blueberry Rust, which is chaired by Windermere independent MLC Ivan Dean, that the information Biosecurity Tasmania used to develop its blueberry rust treatment plan was based on advice from New South Wales, which has a different climate to Tasmania.
“The Tasmanian climate will [eliminate rust] for you, like it does with fruit fly,” Mr Clements said.
“You can force [deciduous blueberry plants] drop leaves, give the plant time through winter and you have a high probability of eliminating rust in Tasmania. We would probably lose a season’s fruit, but winter kills it,” he said.
“We’ve been in the industry for 20 years; this is our livelihood. This fight is not just about blueberries; I feel it’s for the state,” Ms DeWit said.
Representatives from both Biosecurity Tasmania and Costa will speak at the inquiry, responding to information shared during the hearings.
“Costa will be appearing before the inquiry in due course and will be putting its position and answering any questions from the committee at that time,” a Costa spokesperson said.
A Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment department spokesman said the department would answer questions raised by stakeholders and parliamentary members through the inquiry.
“The department has provided a submission and agency staff will also be appearing to answer questions and provide further information as part of this process,” the spokesman said.
The next hearing for the blueberry rust inquiry will be on Monday.
The story Blueberry rust inquiry hears allegations of unfair treatment first appeared on The Examiner.