The devil is often in the detail and it will take some serious analysis and a bit of time for the real ramifications of the newest shake-up into regional agricultural services delivered by the different authorities in NSW to be more obvious.
The state government has announced what it says is a new deal and a new era long overdue into one of the oldest sectors of public service.
Yesterday, Minister Katrina Hodgkinson explained how that 21st- century agricultural platform would be dispensed in what she said was the biggest change since the 1940s.
Some authorities will be abolished and replaced with one-stop local services in the new Local Land Services, set to end duplication and save money. As you would expect, the Opposition has cried doom and gloom and ruin for the workers and the workplaces that serve the man on the land.
Minister Hogkinson says that the farmer is her sacred cow and that’s her focus for this shake-up.
In recent weeks there has been disquiet and fear in some rural places about what this new deal would bring. Primary Industries departmental staff have been at the heart of that worry and there has already been some backlash over the virtual erosion of drought counsellors, for one thing.
NSW Farmers yesterday said they’d been briefed that the restructure would better equip the government to deliver on their calls for better agricultural research, development and extension.
While the Opposition claims there will be hundreds of job losses, the minister prefers to use the word “streamlined” to describe the restructural effect on jobs, but does admit there will be inevitable job losses.
The first cuts will see the 13 Catchment Management Authorities and 14 Livestock Health & Pest Authorities abolished and replaced with statutory bodies.
Advisory services currently provided by Agriculture NSW will also be undertaken by Local Land Services.
She wants a one-stop shop for the farming sector and a better deal for farmers.
Richard Torbay, the Northern Tablelands independent, and erstwhile Nationals bloke-on-the-horizon for New England, wants to know more, concerned not just with job losses or the disappearance of research stations and offices, but also with efficiencies.
He is optimistic that the new model will deliver efficiencies. That is what is needed. The bureaucracy may need some modernisation and leaner, meaner management, but the model must serve the man on the land, not erode his access to services.