By UTE SCHULENBERG
IT'S now official.
After 18 months the Bellinger River has been given the all-clear for oyster harvesting.
Late yesterday NSW Primary Industries minister, Ian Macdonald, said results of the most recent tests showed the water quality had improved substantially, making it suitable once again for shellfish harvesting.
Mr Macdonald said a special cross-governmental taskforce, co-ordinated through the Premier's Department had worked closely with local oyster farmers, the NSW Food Authority, Bellingen Council and other departments and stakeholders to implement the necessary monitoring and remediation program.
He praised local oyster farmers for their role in the taskforce and cooperation throughout the program.
"This is a great example of how government, council and the local industry can work together to solve problems.
"The cooperation of the growers has ensured we have been able to meet our goal of providing the safest oysters throughout the state."
Bellingen Shire mayor, Mark Troy, said the reopening of the river was great news, especially for local growers, who had had a tough time since the river's closure in April 2006.
"The extensive water sampling program and the council's appointment of a Bellinger River keeper means monitoring of potential pollution sources will be ongoing," Cr Troy said.
"Strategies are being developed to further improve water quality."
Bellinger River oyster farmer Mark White said everyone was very pleased with the news.
"It's great to have the river reclassified we hope to be harvesting oysters from the Bellinger after Christmas," he said.