Relief dry spell ends for fishers

By Toby Walker

Drought relief services have traditionally been reserved by governments for the agricultural industry, but now Clarence Valley fishers will be entitled to similar services.

The State's fishing industry was yesterday celebrating an agreement with the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) to provide relief services to drought-affected anglers.

But the agreement held more significance than just allowing the industry access to previously unavailable support services.

The decision was also an acknowledgement of the crucial role the fishing industry played in managing the State's natural resources, essentially giving it parity with NSW farmers, historically a more powerful lobby group.

Industry representative for Clarence River professional anglers, Karin Schiller, first approached the newly-formed DPI seeking drought relief recognition last year on behalf of her 200 members.

After several months of lobbying the DPI, she succeeded in convincing the government to make drought relief services available to fishers across NSW.

"Fishermen have had nothing in the way of help during times of drought," she said.

"Like farmers during drought, many of them need help with evaluating their businesses, restructuring them for adverse climatic conditions and knowing there is a level of moral support as well."

"It's put us on the radar, shown that we are custodians of the natural environment.

"Up until now we've been doing this without any support."

Mrs Schiller said drought often crippled fishermen financially because unlike their colleagues on the land, they generally did not have the benefit of capital resources to fall back on when dealing with banks or other lending institutions.

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