Deniliquin Council ready for a fight over potential job losses.
NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson cannot guarantee no jobs will leave Deniliquin as a result of the proposed creation of Local Land Services.
The minister was in Deniliquin yesterday, meeting with councils, landholders, irrigation groups and other stakeholders about the proposed Local Land Services (LLS).
LLS is a NSW Government initiative to combine part of the Department of Primary Industries (DPI), and all of the Catchment Management Authorities (CMA) and Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPA) into one. It is expected to be operational by 2014.
Minister Hodgkinson denied claims that seven of eight jobs at the Deniliquin DPI office would be cut, saying ‘‘about two jobs’’ would go from the local department.
The minister said LLS was still in its ‘‘incubation stage’’, and that the proposal was still ‘‘malleable’’ and ‘‘open to feedback’’.
When asked for an indication of job cuts in Deniliquin, she said the project was a ‘‘work in progress’’.
There has been strong local concern that the proposal will result in massive job cuts, with those fears already confirmed in the Catchment Management Authorities.
It has already been confirmed that only 15 of 30 permanent positions will remain at the Deniliquin, Albury and Buronga CMAs.
The CMA job cuts are expected to be shared evenly between the three offices — meaning a 50 per cent loss of permanent positions in Deniliquin.
However, Deniliquin mayor Lindsay Renwick, who met with the minister yesterday, said losing one family or one person ‘‘takes away one hell of a lot from the region’’.
‘‘I don’t want any jobs lost.’’
Cr Renwick said he was also displeased with the plans to relocate Deniliquin DPI’s dairy officer to Wagga.
Under the proposed LLS boundaries, that would put the position in the nearby South West Riverina region - not Deniliquin’s Murray region.
‘‘I’’m not happy with anyone moving out of our district,’’ he said.
‘‘Out of our town is bad enough.’’
Cr Renwick said Deniliquin Council ‘‘will go in for a fight again’’ over the job cuts ‘‘if we have to’’.
Ms Hodgkinson blamed a tight budget for the job cuts, and also said some CMA positions were duplicated with LHPA jobs.
‘‘We’ve also been told by treasury that we have to find $30 million in recurrent (yearly) savings,’’ she said.
‘‘So the average public servant costs about $100,000 a year.
‘‘That’s basically 300 positions that we have to find savings for.
‘‘There currently exists a lot of duplication.’’
Ms Hodgkinson said the cuts were state-wide, and not just Deniliquin.
When asked if there could be enough duplication between Deniliquin’s CMA and LHPA to warrant a job cut of 50 per cent, Ms Hodgkinson said ‘‘there could be’’.
‘‘These agencies have been allowed to grow and develop basically without any assessment of duplication. The agencies never talk to each other.
‘‘It will be a streamlined system. It will be efficient. It will be good value for the taxpayer and ratepayer.’’
Ms Hodgkinson said employees will need to re-apply for their jobs because there will be a new industrial award.
The CMA and LHPA are currently on different award systems.
■ More stories in Tuesday’s Pastoral Times.
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