Clean-up cost revealed

State Agriculture Minister Jaala Pulford has confirmed $57,000 has been spent removing dead barramundi and tilapia from the Hazelwood Pondage between March and September.

It comes after 7000 barramundi were stocked in the pondage, formerly used as a cooling system for the Hazelwood Power Station, due to the warm temperatures in the body of water needed to sustain the species.

Earlier this year barramundi began to show signs of stress as a result of cooler temperatures following the closure of the power station, despite being moved to a warmer section of the pondage.

According to state government, about 1500 barramundi have been harvested and a “similar number” survived the winter.

The details of the clearing costs were provided in response to a question asked in parliament from Nationals member for Eastern Victoria Melina Bath.

Ms Bath criticised the state government for the clearing expenditure, saying taxpayers would now be “forced to pick up the bill for Labor’s failed fishing foray”.

“The Andrews Labor government spent $150,000 stocking the Hazelwood Pondage, but after failing to stop the early closure of the Hazelwood Power Station, taxpayers are forced to pick up the bill to remove dead fish from the cooled waters as well,” she said.

However, a spokesperson for Ms Pulford said the barramundi fishery was an “enormous success, not just to recreational anglers, but the entire Latrobe Valley economy”.

“It created exciting new fishing opportunities, attracted thousands of anglers and contributed more than $700,000 to the Latrobe Valley economy,” the spokesperson said.

“More than 5000 anglers have flocked to the Hazelwood Pondage and more than 26,000 anglers registered to take part in the experience.”

“We are confident that we will have viable fishery over summer and with more than 1500 surviving barramundi and more fish to be stocked soon we look forward to a summer of fishing in Hazelwood.”

The spokesperson could not confirm what species of fish would be stocked in the pondage.

Member for Eastern Victoria Harriet Shing said there were still “hundreds” of barramundi in the pondage.

“We now have a fishery that is primed and ready to go. We will have barramundi this season that will exceed one-metre in length,” she said.

“Now the weather and the water temperature is warming up again they will continue to grow and the first barramundi fishery in the southern hemisphere will have another season.”