CEO Message to industry

As the new CEO of WAFIC it is a privilege to be able to serve the interests of the commercial fishing people of the State.  Your efforts have long drawn my admiration and I will always be a strong defender and advocate for your industry, sectors, communities and families.

Chairman Murray and the Board have made it absolutely clear that they want me out and about – on the deck, beach and factory floor – meeting with the people that matter most – the fishers.  Fortunately this is what I love doing anyway, so I’ve already been out on the road – during my second week alone I clocked up over 2500kms gaining a deeper understanding and proper appreciation of the challenges being faced.  Importantly, I’m also focused on identifying possible solutions to be acted upon when I get back to the HQ – so when I’m out and about it’s not just a listening tour, instead it’s a ‘listen and act’ exercise.

Over coming weeks you’ll also see some new initiatives being introduced which will improve communication between WAFIC and those on the water – the Board is adamant that improvements need to be made – so watch this space.

During my working life I’ve been fortunate to literally see hundreds of industry organisations deal with thousands of issues – I’ve seen this first-hand from inside Minister’s offices and outside from many organisations and lobby groups.  It’s fair to say there has been a wide diversity of approaches taken, some are successful while the majority are not. Invariably if government gets a sniff that there are some differences of opinion within a sector, they will stay well away – they know all too well that if they make a decision under these circumstances they will draw a lot of flak.  So for our industry to be successful, we’ve always got to be seen to be united – otherwise our opponents will enjoy themselves as they pick us off in the public domain.

So my vision is to create a united industry front and remain focused on delivering the outcomes that matter – those which protect and shape our future.  It’s important to recognise that with changing global dynamics our industry is likely to face headwinds which may significantly influence our markets and supply chains.  So we’ve got to be right on our toes and looking forward, we certainly can’t afford to be distracted by issues of the past.

On a separate note, I’ll be focusing on introducing new arguments to the public debate about the true value of the fishing industry, steering away from traditional numerical measures such as the billion dollars of GVP and instead talking a whole lot more about the impacts of our industry on our broader society.  For instance, how we provide food for those who otherwise cannot source it – those living far away from the coast and in hospitals and aged care facilities.  It’s also the socio-economic benefits for the deckhands, truck drivers, processing workers, boat builders,  refrigeration mechanics, the wives and children, the schools and voluntary groups – the contribution to the communities these families are a central part of.  So I want to redefine how the industry is valued – it’s certainly not just about direct jobs and beach price values.

We can then mount a stronger case that regional and remote coastal communities need improved services, we’re making a significant contribution to the state’s economy but we’re not always seeing a fair share coming back the other way to underpin the future operations.  Our coastal communities need NBN connectivity to run businesses, support telehealth and conduct external study, we need mobile phone towers to give better coverage – not only in towns but also along the highways we rely upon for transport.  We also need water supplies, sewage and power – as well as available residential and industrial land to support healthy community growth.

So you’ll see and hear a lot of me in the media in the times ahead – advocating for a better appreciation of the importance of the fishing industry and supporting the need for improved services for coastal communities.

In summary, you can be assured of my genuine commitment to the cause and that WAFIC will be engaging much more closely with the fishing community.  The input and insights gained in my early travels have been valuable, and I will continue to be guided by the industry and Board.

As an industry we cannot afford to be fragmented on any issue, we need to have healthy debates behind closed doors but then lock in as a unified industry and pack in tight for the road ahead – as there’s certainly plenty of challenges looming.

Finally I would like to acknowledge and pay respect to the character of my predecessor in Alex Ogg – he has openly provided his willing support and ongoing assistance during the transition period. Alex is a true gentleman who has always demonstrated loyalty and integrity towards the team and I know they will retain positive and fond memories.

Best regards,

Darryl Hockey
WAFIC Chief Executive Officer