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Helping out in tough times

"You don’t ever want to lose anything you grow." 

- Brian Coxon

Brian, a third generation oyster farmer, has been around water his whole life.


“I was brought up on the water,” he says. “I like being on the water, I like being outside.”


The waters of Wagonga Inlet, where Brian grows his oysters, are an important habitat for native Australian fish, birds and plants. The estuary also supports wetlands, mangrove forests, a sand spit and seagrass beds.


“It’s a great place to grow oysters. It’s not too crowded, the water’s great,” he says.



Brian grows Sydney rock oysters. Originally, these oysters were harvested for the lime in their shells but are now considered to be one of the best tasting oysters in the world.


“There’s not a better oyster to eat anywhere,” he says.”. “And on top of everything they’re a native oyster.”


Brian’s business, BJ & HD Coxon Oyster Farmers, was established in 1985 – a time when stocks were plentiful and business was booming. Since then, the business has faced some difficult times.


“You don’t ever want to lose anything you grow,” Brian says. “Back in 2010 we had a one-hundred year flood event, after that we had an algae bloom. It was a toxic algae. For six months we had no income, because the river remained closed... We found people within ANZ that were willing to help us.”


Eventually, the river opened again and Brian’s business recovered. But in 2019 hardship struck. Drought dried up much of the water needed for Brian’s oysters.


“Oyster farming needs fresh water,” he says. “Famine on the land means famine in the sea. If the oysters have poor growth, it’s difficult to maintain their condition and they’re harder to sell.”


Last year in response to the drought ANZ donated $500,000 to the Financial Counselling Foundation for use by rural counselling agencies working in drought affected communities throughout Australia.


Brian recently found himself seeking the assistance of one of those agencies, the Rural Financial Counselling Services (Southern NSW). The free service supports rural businesses through ongoing drought, poor production or anything else affecting their business and their life.


“When you’re doing it tough it’s all too hard, and the state you are in does not always lead to rational decisions,” Brian says. “The financial counsellor looks at you as a person, as well as a business.”


Brian looks forward to building up his business again, but doubts it will ever be as good as it was in 1985. “This business is mostly about loving the lifestyle -people who want to be on the water and love working outdoors in Australia’s oldest aquaculture industry,” Brian says.



To learn more about ANZ's environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance and challenges, you can access the 2019 ESG Supplement as well as our 2019 Annual Report



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