Protesters call public to march ‘to protect region’
By Nadia Surace
A mass public rally is being held in Shepparton’s Maude Street Mall tomorrow in protest of the Federal Government’s biosecurity regulations for importation of New Zealand apples.
The Fruit Growers Victoria event will see orchardists and local business owners among those marching in opposition of the regulations that the organisation say could expose Australian’s $1 billion apple and pear industry to destructive bacteria, Fire Blight.
“Once Fire Blight enters into a country it’s impossible to eliminate,” Fruit Growers Victoria Chair and Ardmona orchardist, Andrew Plunkett says.
“These regulations are a huge threat to us. We have grave concerns for the industry and for the region as a whole.
“We’re not against imports. We’re against the risk of the bacteria entering our country and threatening our industry.”
After more than 5,000 people turned out to a similar protest in 2004, organisers say they are confident the local community will again get behind the event.
Orchardists and Fruit Growers Victoria members were in Shepparton’s Maude Street Mall last week handing out apples to promote the rally.
“40 per cent of Australian apples and 90 per cent of Australian pears are grown in the Goulburn Valley. This is a threat to the whole country’s industry but its most concentrated impact will be on this area,” says Mr Plunkett.
“The Government has lowered what were very tight regulations to there being virtually none.
“We’re asking the community to come out and support us for the protection of our jobs and our economy.
“We’re doing this because we want everyone to be aware of the gravity of the issue.”