Bello grant will open up oyster test facility

FUTURE testing for Norovirus in rivers supporting Australia's oyster industry might be faster and cheaper in the future thanks to a $10,000 contribution by Bellingen Shire ratepayers.

At Wednesday's meeting Bellingen Shire councillors voted to support a request from chairman of the Kalang River Working Group, John Williams, for a cash contribution aimed at establishing a testing facility in Australia.

Until now oysters being tested for the virus have had to be sent to New Zealand, increasing both the cost and turn-around time of results.

An outbreak of the virus closed the Kalang River to oyster harvesting in August last year.

Cr Mark Troy said it was astonishing there was no testing laboratory on the mainland given the shellfish industry here.

“But this request is not just about oysters, it is also about the perception of a contaminated river, which is not a good message,” Cr Troy said.

The testing facility would be based at the South Australian Research and Development Institute, which is linked to the Victorian Government's Department of Primary Industries.

Other NSW government agencies have already contributed $48,000 of the requested $61,000.

Cr Ian Coe questioned why, given the national application of the facility, other funding avenues had not been explored.

“And also the (oyster) industry has made no contribution - they appear to be getting a free ride,” Cr Coe said.

Cr Bruce Cronin said he could see it would be impracticable to approach lots of other councils at this time.

Cr Troy said the question of other councils being involved in future contributions was on the agenda for the next meeting of the Mid North Coast Group of Councils.

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