King Island Action Required NOW!

21 March 2024

Tasmania’s peak agricultural body, TasFarmers, is calling on the government to take immediate action to increase shipping services to and from drought-affected King Island.

The current drought on King Island is the worst the island has seen since the 1970’s. Without urgent action now to allow producers to destock land and bring in supplementary feed, the islands producers of livestock are facing a significant animal welfare challenge over the coming months.

Bass Island Lines, is a wholly owned subsidiary of TasPorts and is currently the operator of the John Duigan, which services the Island's freight requirements. This Tasmanian government-owned service is also complemented by services from other private freight providers.

During a recent visit to King Island, TasFarmers CEO, Nathan Calman said the difference between producers on King Island and other draught affect regions of Tasmania is that they are hamstrung in taking animals off the island as a result of insufficient shipping services.

“This is not the result of the Bass Island Line vessel operating at capacity, but rather the unwillingness of TasPorts to schedule extra sailings.

“Over the next 50 days, the government-operated vessel will only sail 15 times. As a taxpayer-funded vessel, we call on the Tasmanian Government to step in and take action now to direct its GBE TasPorts to at least double, if not triple the number of sailings currently scheduled.

"We would like to see the two TasPorts Shareholding Ministers, Deputy Premier Michael Ferguson, the Minister for infrastructure and treasurer, and Felix Ellis, the Minster for Resources, take an active role and facilitate a solution to what has been an ongoing issue," he said.

King Island currently produces a significant 25% of the Tasmanian beef herd.

Mr Calman said, ”When King Island last experienced a drought like this, producers had an on-island abattoir and access to more regular shipping services to both Tasmania and Victoria.

"As these options are no longer available, the government must act now to support producers – not to provide a handout, just to provide a service that the existing taxpayer-owned boat already has the capacity to deliver.

"This issue is bigger than politics, and TasFarmers believe it should receive bipartisan support," he said.