Minister Ley interview with David Bevan, ABC Adelaide

10 September 2021

DAVID BEVAN: The Honourable Sussan Ley, who is the Federal Environment Minister, joins us now. Good morning, Sussan Ley.

SUSSAN LEY: Good morning, David, and good morning to your listeners.

DAVID BEVAN: Now, I think one of these has already been constructed off- is it of Glenelg? But you want to build one of these-

SUSSAN LEY: It is.

DAVID BEVAN: Yeah. So, you want to build another one further down the coast, is that right?

SUSSAN LEY: This will be the second off the Southern Coast of Adelaide. So, it's five hectares of native shellfish reef off O'Sullivan beach in the Adelaide Southern Suburbs. And it's pretty exciting because wherever we see these reefs we see some great environmental benefits, and also a huge upside for tourism in coastal communities.

DAVID BEVAN: So, how do you make them.

SUSSAN LEY: You dump limestone rubble into the ocean, 4800 kilos (tonnes) in this case; you seed that rubble with spats, or baby oysters - three million in this case. You can use discarded shells from fish and chip shops, oyster shells, because they all end up sticking to the reef and creating their own ecosystem - so the little oysters move in. The water gets filtered, the fish come back. In fact, for each hectare of shellfish reef the fish stock increases by 375 kilos. So, they're great spots for fishing but, as Environment Minister, they really do restore our marine ecosystems.

DAVID BEVAN: Sorry. How many kilograms do you dump?

SUSSAN LEY: Three- of rubble? In this case 4800 kilos.

DAVID BEVAN: That's a lot of rubble. And you-

SUSSAN LEY: Tonnes actually. Sorry, David. Let me get that figure right - 4800 tonnes of limestone…

DAVID BEVAN: Tonnes?

SUSSAN LEY: … sourced from a local quarry goes into the water. And then three million spats, which is baby oysters - there's about 10, I think, attached to each actual oyster - goes onto the limestone reef. And in no time at all, it actually mimics what the original reef that we used to have all the way around our coastline, used to look like and what they used to do. Because of course, oysters build on oysters and that water filtration and seagrass comes back, and fish come back.

DAVID BEVAN: This one will be off O'Sullivan's Beach. Is that right?

SUSSAN LEY: That's right.

DAVID BEVAN: Oh, okay. And when will it actually happen?

SUSSAN LEY: It's happening now. It's started construction, it's a partnership between ourselves, South Australian Government, and the Nature Conservancy. So it's it won't be long before it's underway. It's expected to begin, I think, in a couple of months. This is part of $20 million, 13 shellfish reefs and, as we just said, two off the coast of Adelaide.

DAVID BEVAN: You know, you say 4800 tonnes of rubble is, is dumped. How big is the area? What would that all take up?

SUSSAN LEY: It's twice the size of the Adelaide Oval now?

DAVID BEVAN: Gee.

SUSSAN LEY: Now, that's pretty big because, as far as ovals go, the Adelaide Oval is pretty big. But it- you've got to think of it as- I mean, it's a real powerhouse of activity- I visited one in the northern New South Wales coast that actually wasn't part of our program but they'd just gone ahead and done it. The local community had raised funds because all the local fishers want to get out there, and people, as you know, come to certain towns along the beach because of the fishing. And so it's a great boost for the local economy.

DAVID BEVAN: Alright. So that's $20 million. Is that all Commonwealth money? Or did you do a share arrangement with David Speers, the State Environment Minister?

SUSSAN LEY: Some of these are shared with David Speers - this one is. As I understand, not all of them are. But the, the partnership that we have with the Nature Conservancy is a really strong one, and they are involved in rolling out these shellfish reefs around the rest of the country with us. And it's an initiative that they've had for a long time. And they've, they've sort of got the - I don't want to call it the recipe - but they've got the protocol exactly right [indistinct] how to do it, how to build it.

DAVID BEVAN: Alright. And, and this'll be about 500 metres off O'Sullivan's beach. But you say it becomes effective very quickly. How soon before you get the, the good results?

SUSSAN LEY: Well, it will start straight away. Because as soon as you seed the oysters, then…

DAVID BEVAN: It starts working?

SUSSAN LEY: … it gets the life cycle off- it starts working. And you know, as we know, oyster reefs build on old oysters, then new oysters, and so on. So you sort of get a depth of oyster shells, which effectively creates the reef as well. So it's, it's a living, building ecosystem and it will continue once it started.

DAVID BEVAN: It sounds like something out of a Dr Seuss book - oysters, upon oysters, upon oysters. And they're going to be out there off O'Sullivan's Beach. Thank you for explaining what's happening today.

SUSSAN LEY: Lovely to speak with you.

DAVID BEVAN: That's Sussan Ley, the Federal Environment Minister.