Labor has committed to funding a NSW biosecurity commission that will be headed up by its own commissioner to provide independent advice to government.
At the same time NSW Opposition leader Chris Minns told NSW Farmers' conference that he wants an independent ag commissioner.
The announcement came after ag commissioner Daryl Quinlivan spoke to delegates about the role of the job he was appointed to in August 2020.
Mr Minns said the first task of the biosecurity commissioner would be to work with the natural resources commission to get a clear picture of the extent of invasive species and the damage they were doing not just to environment but ag productivity.
He said the second was to increase the visibility of biosecurity across government.
"I don't want it to be seen as a implied criticism of the current government," Mr Minns told The Land.
"I'm conscious that it's a fast moving situation and that the biosecurity threat could change quickly ... we want a solution that once implemented can be in place when there are real threats.
Mr Minns said there needed to be an independent agriculture commissioner who could speak out and advocate on behalf of the sector.
NSW Farmers president elect Xavier Martin said it was positive to see biosecurity being elevated within government and being recognised as a significant risk to agriculture and the economy.
"We need a good understanding of where biosecurity is up to and this suggestion of an independent commissioner appears to have a lot of potential," Mr Martin said.
"Biosecurity isn't just about threats coming in from overseas. Here at home, our members have reported issues with pests and weeds coming onto their property from public lands and it's important those public land managers are held to the same standards as everyone else.
"It is frustrating when farmers do so much to control pests and weeds only to see them come in from the national park or road next door."
In response to Labor's commitment to an independent ag commissioner, Mr Martin said: "At the moment, there's a lot of talk about supporting farmers, but in the halls of government the impact of environmental priorities, urban expansion and infrastructure on rural land is not being addressed."
Without an improved understanding in government of how to resolve the fragmentation and loss of productive rural land, the continued threats to farming land leads to a challenge to investment, innovation and to regional communities.- Xavier Martin, NSW Farmers president elect.
"Without an improved understanding in government of how to resolve the fragmentation and loss of productive rural land, the continued threats to farming land leads to a challenge to investment, innovation and to regional communities," Mr Martin said.
Agriculture Minister Dugald Saunders said it was disappointing, but not surprising, for the NSW Opposition to present an 'agriculture policy' that 'lacks detail, logic and substance'.
"If the NSW public needed any further validation that a Labor government would be unfit to represent regional NSW, this is it," Mr Saunders said.
"This is merely a proposal of buzz words and gimmicks.
"In summary, Labor's big picture for agriculture is: 'two new bureaucrats and a shallow policy on weeds'. This is in comparison to the NSW government's $1 billion primary industries budget and a record commitment to biosecurity funding."
Mr Saunders said the announcement of an independent biosecurity commissioner was an admission up front from Labor that they did not have the 'knowledge or expertise to deal' with the serious biosecurity threats.
They have not even attempted a biosecurity strategy - this is a blatant palm-off and confirmation of unpreparedness and disregard for the value of our state's primary industries sector," Mr Saunders said.
Mr Saunders said in Labor's media release, they promised a 'strong and independent agriculture commissioner', which the current government already introduced two years ago.
He said the current commissioner, Daryl Quinlivan, came with great experience and knowledge and was making significant inroads in the agriculture sector in NSW.
"This announcement from NSW Labor shows a barefaced disrespect for the tireless work undertaken by NSW DPI and Local Land Services during some of the toughest times we have ever seen in agriculture," he said.
"This is an attack on the many staff who have been going over and above for the people of NSW, particularly over the last couple of months."
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