Industry calls for revitalisation of Pastoral Board

28 Oct, 2016 01:00 AM

THE Department of Lands (DoL) is seeking to fill two positions on the Pastoral Lands Board (PLB), including recruiting a new chairperson.

Former PLB chairwoman Leanne Corker stepped down in April, citing growing frustrations over the Rangelands reform proposal.

Ms Corker told Farm Weekly this week that the DoL and Lands Minister Terry Redman had been "remiss in not proceeding to make an appointment to the position of chair until now, given it has been vacant for more than six months".

"I doubt the position will be filled quickly," Ms Corker said.

"Departmental processes are notoriously slow and inefficient."

A DoL spokesperson said it was keen to fill the chairperson role and have a pastoral member on the board who was either involved or was previously involved in a pastoral lease.

In terms of the PLB future and direction he said it would be a matter for the new chairperson to speak on behalf of the board.

Ms Corker said the PLB had been "in limbo" due to the Rangelands reform proposal.

After the failure of almost a year of negotiations between the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) and DoL, the draft Land Administration Amendment Bill 2016 was scrapped and the PLB remains constituted under the Land Administration Act 1997.

No changes have been made.

Lands Minister Terry Redman was disappointed when he was unable to get the draft legislation onto the Cabinet agenda in August.

He said there was broad support across the pastoral industry for reform.

Mr Redman said he had made every effort to genuinely reform what he considered to be very old legislation, to open up opportunities in the Rangelands.

Given her previous role on the PLB, Ms Corker made recommendations to improve it, including addressing communication issues.

Ms Corker said the board had no control over its budget.

"In past years it has been consulted and kept informed of the 'pastoral' budget within DoL," she said.

"Not in recent years - it relies on DoL, which does not consult with it on any matters of budget or priority."

Ms Corker said in the future the board and minister should communicate directly, without the department being in the middle.

"The minister should clearly articulate the objectives and expectations to the board, in person when possible," she said.

"The minister should request and consider the advice of the board and the board should be adequately resourced to be able to provide well researched and considered advice to the minister independent of the view, constraints and biases of the DoL or any other department."

Ms Corker said a new approach was needed, focusing on what could be done and how, instead of what couldn't be done.

"If this State wants to achieve anything it needs to take on some risk and responsibility," she said.

"Don't keep telling the board that it can't do something when it can."

Ms Corker said the relationship with the pastoral industry had come a long way during her time at the helm.

"But we still have miles to go," she said.

"There has been a lot of confusion over the years about who the board is and what it is supposed to do."

Ms Corker said there should be strategic, productive, co-operative engagement between the board and relevant departments and other decision-makers involved in the management and administration of pastoral land.

She said each party was working against each other and not for the same common goal.

"I recommend adequate human resources to provide sufficient, effective and efficient administrative, technical, policy and other support," she said.

"The board's administrative support sits within the pastoral lands section of DoL and officers who work for the minister, the department and the board.

"As a result officers are often conflicted when providing support and advice to the board.

"At least six staff would be required to do the operational, strategic and policy work of the board.

"These officers should be directly accountable to the board through a management structure."

PGA president Tony Seabrook said having Ms Corker resign from her position due to growing frustration was a loss and said her recommendations were good.

"It is very important we have a revitalised board with the right people on it to make certain that the industry gets the governance that it deserves, with prosperity," Mr Seabrook said.

"It needs to be a different and a better formulated board with more capacity to act as a board than the previous one ever did."

Mr Seabrook said he was aware there were applications for the top job.

"It has taken them some time to advertise the position, and it shows the powers-to-be were unhappy with the outcome of the reform," he said.

"The role has been advertised and there is a process before industry is made aware of who the chair will be."

Mr Seabrook said the new board had the potential to work well.

"It just depends if the DoL will let it work well," he said.

"To allow it to work well they will have to give it a degree more autonomy than they have in the past, give it a budget that it can work with and staff - as Leanne's recommendations suggest.

"It needs to be properly resourced so it can do the job its charter says it should do.

"I can understand from those recommendations, going through the DoL instead of answering to the minister, it's hard to run a board in the way it should be run, as a member of the board, in its current form.

"The board need to have teeth."

The board includes pastoral representatives Brett Crook, Jack Burton and Tim Meecham, conservation interest representative Gaye Mackenzie, Aboriginal pastoral interest representative Gregory Stubbs, Department of Agriculture and Food representative John Ruprecht and DoL representative Colin Slattery.



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