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Oyster farmers spreading the good news

South Coast oyster farmers have been busy spreading the word about their role as estuary stewards and educating stakeholders on the connection between good water quality, catchment condition and healthy oysters. 

Over the past month, farmers have led tours in three estuaries: Wonboyn Lake, Wagonga Inlet and Shoalhaven estuary. Supported by South East Local Land Services and the Oyster EMS Implementation Officers, these events have varied in their focus, and targeted different stakeholders and sectors of the community to suit the unique needs and issues of each estuary.

On Friday 23 October, members of Bega Valley Shire Council's Coastal Planning and Management Committee, as well as growers from other oyster-producing estuaries in the shire, toured Wonboyn Lake and discussed its unique ecology and ways to potentially address local issues such as entrance openings. Sapphire Coast Wilderness Oysters also held its annual general meeting. This regional oyster body was congratulated on securing an additional three years of funding for their Oyster EMS Implementation Officer through South East Local Land Services' Community, Landscape and Industry grants.

Wagonga's tour was held on Saturday, 7 November. It focused on engaging restaurant owners and the broader community. Punters were provided with an insight into how this gourmet local product is grown and progresses from paddock to plate. The farmers showcased sustainability initiatives the oyster industry has been involved in during its 10 year partnership with South East Local Land Services.

The Shoalhaven/Crookhaven event brought together the local oyster and dairy industries on Friday, 13 November to encourage communication and further foster the relationship between these two primary producers. Through conversations and visits to dairy and oyster farmers, both gained a greater appreciation of the issues faced by each industry and areas of cross-over which they can work on together in the future.

This event was also attended by Special Minister of State Mal Brough, and member for Gilmore, Ann Sudmalis. Both applauded the efforts made by industry in recent years implementing best-management practices which are delivering financial and environmental benefits.

The green credentials of the oyster industry in particular have been instrumental in the Shoalhaven estuary gaining export certification and establishing strong links with the Asian market through Australia's Oyster Coast. 

The South Coast and Southern Highlands Dairy Industry Group has also received funding through the South East Local Land Services' Community, Landscape and Industry grants for the Sustaining South Coast and Highlands Dairy Industry Group project. This funding is the first step in Dairy Australia's Fert$mart program which will reduce the amount of nutrient entering the estuaries.