Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Deniliquin urged to fight for services

Deniliquin community leaders say Tuesday's Local Land Services consulation meeting wil be an important step in the battle for retaining local services.

ZOE MCMAUGH February 15, 2013 4:34am

The proposed Local Land Services agency will strike at the heart of Deniliquin’s two most vital industries and must be stopped, according to community leader Lester Wheatley.

The NSW Government’s new super agency will adversely impact government jobs and agriculture, he said.

Mr Wheatley, who is chair of the Murray Valley Community Action Group, said the community must fight to protect both.

In forming the LLS, the NSW Government will merge the Department of Primary Industries, Livestock Health and Pest Authority and Catchment Management Authority.

Seven of eight jobs at Deniliquin’s DPI office and at least half of the Murray CMA workforce across the Deniliquin, Buronga and Albury offices may be lost as a result.

It has also been confirmed the DPI’s dairy officer position will be moved to Wagga.

There has been no clear indication whether Deniliquin-based regional offices, services and research funding will be compromised during the merger.

‘‘The potential to reduce services is great, despite people advocating for the expansion of agriculture to feed the world,’’ Mr Wheatley said.

‘‘Anything that removes employment from this region should be avoided.

‘‘One thing that has already hit Deniliquin hard is the removal or relocation of government services — that is what brings stability.

‘‘We need to send a clear message, in the strongest possible terms, that we should not tolerate the impact it will have on agriculture and the impact it will have in destabilising the local economy.’’

The LLS proposal will be discussed at a consultation workshop at the Deniliquin RSL Club on Tuesday, from 9am to noon. It will be lead by LLS reference panel chair Dr John Keniry.

Murray CMA general manager David Leslie said it was important for all landholders to attend.

‘‘This is the best opportunity to be informed about what LLS will be — governance, structure and funding,’’ Mr Leslie said.

‘‘It’s also a chance to find out more about proposed boundaries, and what may happen to services and head offices including those in Deniliquin.

‘‘I cannot see the panel coming to Deniliquin again, so this is your only chance.’’

While he believes the NSW Government will push ahead with the merger regardless, Deniliquin Mayor Lindsay Renwick said it was important for locals to guide the process.

He said that could be the only way to ensure Deniliquin is not completely destroyed by the formation of the new super agency.

‘‘They are doing it and the wheels are in motion, but to survive we have to be proactive.

‘‘We are the centre of a big farming community and that’s why we need to fight.

‘‘We know things have to tighten up, but the thing that is of most concern to me is that we don’t lose our offices.

‘‘(NSW Minister for Primary Industries) Katrina Hodgkinson told us the HQs would stay, and we will hold her to that.

‘‘We also need to ensure our farmers continue getting the services they need, and the more farmers that attend the meeting the more influence we could have.’’Member for Murray-Darling John Williams will be in Parliament next week and will not be attending the Deniliquin meeting.

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