Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Landholders against ag department merger

The government says farmers have called for a system such as Local Land Services - but local landholders aren't so sure.

November 23, 2012 4:23am

Mayrung landholder Laurie Beer says it is ‘‘almost certain’’ services in this district will be lost under the Local Land Services proposal.

The NSW Government initiative - Local Land Services - will see the Department of Primary Industries, Catchment Management Authorities and Livestock Health and Pest Authorities merged into one.

It has already been revealed the merger will affect seven of eight jobs at the Deniliquin DPI office, and 15 permanent jobs from across the Deniliquin, Albury and Buronga Murray Catchment Management Authority offices.

When asked about the job losses last week, Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson said it was a consequence of delivering the one-stop-shop type system landholders have been calling for.

Mr Beer, however, said he does not believe it is the right approach.

‘‘I certainly haven’t been calling for it (the merger),’’ he said.

‘‘I do believe there may be room for streamlining, but this seems to be just a broad axe approach.

‘‘It doesn’t go well with me.’’

Mr Beer is not the only person who believes the government is working to an agenda, with fellow landholder Don Barclay saying he would be ‘‘very dubious’’ about what the government says.

‘‘They are making cuts and they want to make it sound plausible,’’ Mr Barclay said.

‘‘They are not doing anyone any service.’’

Conargo Shire Mayor Norm Brennan agreed saying the ‘‘greatest cop out is to say this is what people want without much consultation’’.

Details received by the Pastoral Times last week showed that under Local Land Services, the dryland agronomist for this region would be based at Albury and the irrigation agronomist would be located at either Dareton or Deniliquin.

There is also a possibility the irrigation development officer may be retained in Deniliquin, or otherwise relocated to Yanco.

It has also been confirmed the dairy development officer position would be relocated to Wagga.

Mr Beer and Mr Barclay said the DPI’s department of agriculture losses would be detrimental to the local area.

‘‘We’ve already been missing a Finley district agronomist for a few years now, and it looks like we’re going to lose the Deniliquin one as well,’’ Mr Beer said.

‘‘It will become difficult for growers to get the information they need. We still have commercial agronomists, but they can sometimes have a vested interest.

‘‘District agronomists also hold vital field days and information sessions.

‘‘It is almost certain this will all be lost, and the LHPA does a lot of good too.’’

Mr Barclay described the possible job losses as a ‘‘disaster’’ and said the knowledge of the DPI workers, in particular, was vital to the community.

‘‘While we have access to other agronomists, the independent advice and long term experience in the district is invaluable,’’ he said.

‘‘It is something you cannot replicate.

‘‘Every time we lose a government job we lose a reliable income to the town.

‘‘We used to be a big government service town and now there is not much left.

‘‘The one that will affect me most is the department of ag - it’s just a backward step.’’

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