NSW Labor’s plan to order a review into Local Land Services because it alleges it is failing to deliver at the farm gate has been attacked by the Liberal/Nationals Government as a waste of taxpayers money.
NSW Shadow Minister for Primary Industries, Mick Veitch, said there was “growing frustration with the performance of LLS under the Liberals and Nationals” and promised there would be an independent review of its operations.
“As I travel around the state and talk to landholders, there’s a real concern about the role of LLS and its ability to meet the expectations of government and farmers,” said Mr Veitch. “Staff are doing their best with limited resources.”
“Farmers tell me they are seeing less and less frontline staff. Those left are overworked and doing the best they can with limited resources,” said Mr Veitch.
But NSW Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said all Mr Veitch could come up with was a “review”, and he did not even have a policy on LLS.
He said LLS was working at a high-level customer satisfaction. A recent survey of LLS performance found its customer satisfaction was rated as 9.4 out of 10.
Mr Blair said the Government had worked hard to make sure LLS had the resources it needed to deliver on the ground, increasing its budget every year.
“What Mr Veitch is promising is just lazy, surely he could come up with a policy, not just a review,” he said.
“We have actually moved to make the LLS stronger than ever.” He said the LLS was delivering on the ground in one of the worst droughts on record to assist landholders. The Government also announced last week Landcare was putting in an extra $22.4 million to work with LLS on new projects. The locust plague levy had been expanded to be a general pest levy. LLS rates had also been waived for a year to help landholders in the drought.
He said Mr Veitch had also got the history of the various boards and agencies that amalgamated to form the LLS incorrect.
Mr Veitch had said the Local Land Services was formed in 2013 as an amalgamation of several organisations including the old Rural Lands Protection Boards, Catchment Management Authorities and some advisory services within the Department of Primary Industries.
Mr Blair said the RLPB was disbanded well before 2013, by Labor, to become the Livestock Health and Pest Authorities. (The LHPA model was “controversially” introduced in 2009, replacing the previous 47 RLPBs. It was later found to be unwieldy over-governed and not performing according to a review in 2012 and in 2013 the formation of the LLS was announced.).
Mr Veitch said there was a real fear that the “local” is being taken out of “Local Land Services.”
“At the same time they are seeing big salaries for head office staff and a blowout in corporate services.”
He said the establishment of the LLS in 2013 was more about cost cutting than delivering quality services and advice to landholders with cuts to the LLS budget occurring since 2013.
“Labor will appoint an independent review team to travel around the state to assess options regarding the future of the service and report to the Minister.
“The review will consider, among other matters, whether the organisation is fit for purpose as well its capacity to meet the needs of landholders including the provision of extension services. If elected Labor will commission the review within its first 100 days of coming to power.”