New ag model workshopped in Tamworth

TAMWORTH farmers have been briefed about the state government’s proposed restructure of agricultural service delivery. The Australian Farming Institute travelled to Tamworth this week to host a forum at the community centre that informed attendees how the changes could affect them.

The institute’s executive director, Mick Keogh, made a point they were not from the government and the discussions were preliminary in nature.

The proposed services restructure will be known as the Local Land Services model and will amalgamate the state’s 14 Livestock Health and Pest Authorities, 13 Catchment Management Authorities and various arms of the Department of Primary Industries (DPI).

If all goes ahead, it could be operational by January 2014.

The government hopes the new approach will be able to more effectively offer services in a one-stop-shop style system to farmers and landholders across the state.

Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson announced the changes in October, which coincided with budget cut announcements to the DPI of more than $30 million.

Red flags over the restructure have been raised previously, with local Livestock Health and Pest Authority members questioning the loss of local representation in the form of directors on their boards.

Now new survey results from the NSW Farmers’ Association have revealed nearly two thirds of respondents don’t support the new board structure, preferring the current democratically elected director system.

While only 20 farmers attended Tamworth’s forum, more than 200 made submissions to the online NSW Farmers survey.

Feedback from those submissions was taken to the restructure’s reference panel yesterday.

The panel will eventually oversee the construction of the new agency. 

NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson sits on that panel and said she was pleased with the feedback.

“The more information we have, the better position our association is in to represent landholders on the panel,” she said.

Ms Simson said they must ensure any new model delivered better and more effective services to farmers both during and after the transition period to the new agency.

“But if we find the panel is just a rubber stamp or the agency is just a way to slog ratepayers with the cost of service delivery – the government will be hearing from us,” she said.

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