New lab for fisheries

FISHERIES Cricket season begins Staff from the Narrandera Fisheries Centre, with NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair, and Nationals candidate for Cootamundra Steph Cooke.

Native freshwater fish research yesterday received a major boost with the NSW Government investing $1.1 million in the construction of a new laboratory facility.

Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair joined Nationals candidate for Cootamundra Steph Cooke in touring the Narrandera Fisheries Centre.

“Really exciting news, we’re at the Narrandera Fisheries Centre and there’s a $1.1 million upgrade of the labs here,” Mr Blair said. “This is a unique facility, it’s the only research facility like this in the whole Murray- Darling and we’re really excited about it.

“We’ve got some of the best scientists in the world right here in Narrandera and they need world-class facilities. So our native fish research team are at the cutting edge of making sure that we have proper fish stocks, and a healthy ecosystem for those
fish, and that happens right here in Narrandera. So that’s why this $1.1 million upgrade is really exciting news for them.

“Current research activities based at Narrandera focus on the health of freshwater species, habitats, ecosystems and sustainable
fishing practices. The new lab will look at diagnostics and microscopy facilities, a wet and dry lab, and basically it’s a world-class
facility, for our world-class scientists to be able to get in and do what they do.”

Mr Blair talked about the benefits the money would bring, not only to the Fisheries Centre but to Narrandera itself.

“We’re really proud that we’ve got a facility like this in Narrandera, but it needed to be upgraded. This is my third trip here as minister and every time I come they convince me to open up even more purse strings. We’ve upgraded the boat shed, some small additions to a smaller lab, but this $1.1 million grant is to really overhaul the lab facilities and is welcome news for our scientists
based in Narrandera.

“The design work has been done, the money’s there, and we should see work commence around Christmas time. It will be a welcome boost for Narrandera, it will create a lot of construction jobs, but also underpin that we have a world-class fisheries
research facility based right here in Narrandera and that’s really important.

“We want to make sure that this has a long future here and we continue to contribute to the Narrandera community. The best facilities that we have will mean that we can better utilise these facilities into the future. They do important and great work at the moment, but with an upgraded facility we can also look at partnering with universities and other research institutions to be
able to maximise the output here in Narrandera.

“And also to underpin and value the jobs that we have based right here in the Riverina. One of the really great things that we also see come through the Fisheries Centre is the school groups, and we want to look at how we can continue to enhance that.

“Investing in this facility is money well spent by the NSW government,” Mr Blair said.

NSW Nationals candidate for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said it was great to see a leading research centre based in the heart of the electorate.

“I’m so excited, this is a wonderful project for the people of Narrandera and the people that work so hard here to help our native fish species, it’s great for native fish species, it’s just fantastic,” Ms Cooke said. “The staff have all been so welcoming as I’ve walked through the door and I’ve had a chance to meet and have a chat to them and thank them for the great work that they
do.

“This will be very important. It’s going to bring construction jobs, it’s going to give our people here the extra resources to continue to doing the great job that they do every day.

“This is a long term investment by the State Government into this area. The Nats always deliver and that’s why I’m so proud to be a Nat. Freshwater fishing is popular with locals right across the region and I know they will be pleased to see more investment in fishing,” Ms Cooke said.

Speaking more candidly afterwards, Mr Blair said that he hoped the money would inject more positivity into the town.

“There’s a huge future in aquaponics in NSW. With Hutcheon and Pearce closing, this is a good boost for Narrandera.”

Mr Blair’s wife is local to the Riverina; the couple lived in Leeton for five years.

According to manager Les Rava, the Narrandera Fisheries Centre now employs 25 people.

After the conference, Mr Blair consulted with Fisheries staff in order to learn what other resources or upgrades the facility might need to improve its services. The new multi-functional laboratory will include wet and dry areas, microscopy rooms, genetics and environmental DNA facilities, an aquaria tank room and storage facilities.

Construction of the new state-of-the-art laboratory complements recent upgrades at Narrandera, including a $240,000 fish ageing facility and a new $220,000 boat shed. The construction of the laboratory will ensure the Department of Primary Industries maintains its reputation as a premier centre for research.

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