Cuts to Local Land Services director and chair pay from May 25, 2024, or when existing roles expire, has triggered concerns around how the organisation will continue to function.
LLS already has 22 board vacancies open for the May, 2024, election and stakeholders say the government's pay-cuts will deter applicants.
A letter of notification (which The Land has seen) of the proposed cuts was sent on behalf of Minister for Regional NSW Tara Moriarty to LLS chair Allison Harker, detailing the reduced remuneration.
It detailed that from May 15, local board members would be remunerated $5000 a year, down from $20,000; local board chairs to $30,000/year, down from $60,000; and, the LLS board chair $58,250/year (0.25 fulltime equivalent), down from $116,500/year (0.5 FTE senior executive Band 1).
In the LLS board member recruitment pack, it states "board members offer their experience and knowledge to strengthen LLS to strategically deliver services focused on agricultural production, biosecurity, natural resource management, animal welfare, emergency management, and sustainable land management".
According to the letter, signed by the Secretary for Regional NSW, Rebecca Fox, the change in remuneration was the result of an independent review commissioned by Ms Moriarty into Local Land Services boards and committees.
Long-time Central West LLS board member and of LLS's predecessor, the Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) state board from 2004 to the organisation's demise in 2014, Chris Sweeney, said the decision would be the death knell of producer representation in regional NSW.
He said the time he invested in his LLS role ranged between 20 to 40 hours a month, researching, responding to questions and attending meetings.
"That doesn't include questions I might receive while I'm at the footy on the weekend," he said.
"I won't be standing again. Money is not the most important thing. What this change is telling me is that our expertise and knowledge are not worthy of $20,000 a year."
Mr Sweeney said devaluing the LLS boards will turn the once respected representative body into a "tea and scones" group.
"It's going to take the locals out of the Local Land Services," he added.
"When we put decisions in the hands of people who bear no consequence of the cost, it's a disaster waiting to happen."
Mr Sweeney said there were already 22 vacancies on LLS boards across the state, and elections for positions on regional boards were just around the corner.
George Merriman, Geegullalong, Boorowa, was almost through his second term on the South East LLS board.
Mr Merriman has been on a recruitment drive, trying to drum up a suitable candidate as a replacement. But with this announcement, he is now pessimistic.
"No one goes on the LLS for the money, but it's about compensating you for the time you invest," he said.
"Does this mean that the Minister, who takes our rates ... no longer wants experienced representation to see those rates are used wisely?"
Mr Merriman said the South East LLS did fantastic work in the wild dog space and the increasing load feral pigs and deer put on landholders.
He said it had "taken quite a while" to get the LLS organisation into a position where it was respected for the work it did.
"The LLS has been there for us in fires and now in floods. I joined the board because a friend was leaving the district, and I thought I should step up," he said.
"If the Minister doesn't want our input, but takes our rates, then perhaps we should ask all of NSW to chip in to help carry the load."
If the Minister doesn't want our input, but takes our rates, then perhaps we should ask all of NSW to chip in to help carry the load.- George Merriman, Boorowa.
Colin Bull, Oakville, Conargo, was into his second term as an elected director of the Murray Local Land Services and also retires at the end of this term.
He was not in a position to comment because directors had been given a directive not to speak, but did say "it is a surprising decision" from the government.
A spokesperson for Ms Moriarty said across the NSW Government, all public sector boards and committees were being reviewed to ensure they were fit for purpose and "set up to best serve the people of NSW".
"This is why the Minister commissioned a review into LLS boards and committees. One of its findings was that remuneration needed to be reviewed," the spokesperson said.
"The Minister has sought the advice of the NSW Public Service Commission on the classification of LLS boards - both local boards and the state board.
"It is this advice from the Public Service Commission that has led to the changes and will ensure that the remuneration of LLS board members is in line with other public sector boards across government."
The spokesperson said current board members would receive their current salary until their terms expired and any savings would be used in delivering frontline services.
NSW Farmers president Xavier Martin it was critically important to have directors who knew the farming landscape and could provide direct advice to management and government.
"This is a significant amount of work that takes board members away from their own farm businesses and it deserves a greater level of remuneration that what is being proposed," he said.
Ms Harker was also contacted for comment.