Former Port Macquarie oyster farmer helps drought affected communities

Published: January 2020 I By: Beverley Hadgraft 

After support from NSW Farmers, Mark Bulley wanted to give back by becoming a regional services manager for the North Coast & Tablelands.

Mark Bulley, Regional services manager, North Coast & Tablelands, NSW Farmers
AS a young bloke, Mark Bulley did a butcher’s apprenticeship and one Christmas, he helped create a festive scene made from meat. The team minced up suet for snow, cut lambs’ kidneys to look like reindeer eyes and trimmed the meat to be as red as possible for Santa’s coat.

Frivolous? Maybe. But the display created discussion and laughter, and gave the butchers a chance to get to know their customers as people and not just purchasers. Mark has taken a people-focused approach to life ever since and it’s been key to his success as he takes on his latest role as a regional services manager (RSM) for NSW Farmers.

He was born in Port Macquarie, but was raised on a dairy and beef farm in the Hawkesbury district. When an uncle revealed he was selling his oyster farm in Port Macquarie, Mark embraced the opportunity to try something different and spent the next 30 years working on “wet paddocks” in Limeburners Creek, which runs off the Hastings River. He was among the first oyster farmers to join NSW Farmers in 1995.

Sydney Rock oysters grown on the Camden Haven River on the NSW North Coast. Photography by Roger Rosentreter. 

“There was a lot of learning from both sides,” recalls Mark. He went on to become chair of his local branch and of the Association’s Oyster Committee, as well as sitting on the Executive Council. 

Mark, who later sold his oyster farm to take on roles at Cassegrain Wines and Local Land Services, also spearheaded the industry’s proudest achievement, the NSW Oyster Industry Sustainable Aquaculture Strategy. It’s a world’s best-practice standard in sustainable oyster production, promoting environmental, social and economic principles. 

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“It came about as our valuable asset was being compromised because of mismanagement of developments, which impacted on water quality,” Mark explains. “Industry was fed up with arguing about poor policy and lack of regulation.
“NSW Farmers was absolutely fantastic in their support,” he adds. So when the Association was looking for a new RSM for its North Coast & Tablelands region, he saw a chance to reciprocate. 
“To me it’s like a big family. Everyone is so passionate about their respective industries, doing what they can to maintain stability and sustainability and thinking about opportunities for the younger generation coming through.”

Mark, who lives in Port Macquarie with wife Sally and their two grown-up children, started his job at NSW Farmers in April 2019. His area stretches from Port Stephens to Tweed Heads, and across to New England and down to Walcha. “We have just about every kind of farmer except broadacre,” he says. 
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“The main thing I’m working on at the moment is helping farmers deal with drought. It’ll take a while for some of these areas to recover. It’s also about trying to help maintain morale – and it’s part of my role, whether providing a listening ear, contacts or sharing ideas. 

“I like to share knowledge because people have always done that for me. I want to ensure the legacy we leave behind is better than the one we inherited.” 

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