Lands Board chief acknowledges challenges

29 Apr, 2010 02:00 AM
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MISCONCEPTIONS that the Pastoral Lands Board was a group conspiring in secret against pastoralists, responsible for wild dogs and weed control and that members should be lobbying on behalf of the pastoral industry, were challenged by the Board's chairman, Leanne Corker last week in Perth.

Ashburton pastoralist Ms Corker is the lessee of Red Hill station along with husband Digby and was appointed two months ago as chairman of the board.

Ms Corker delivered the Pastoralist and Graziers Association (PGA) conference's keynote address to around 60 pastoralists and industry representatives last Thursday in Perth at the Esplanade River Suites.

The Pastoral Land Board is a statutory board of eight members, established under the Land Administration Act 1997, with administrative functions of providing policy advice to the Minster, monitoring pastoral land to ensure they were managed on an economically sustainable basis and ensuring that lessees comply with the Act.

Six have pastoral, indigenous or conservation backgrounds, with the remaining two members the Director Generals of the Agriculture and Food Department and the Regional Development and Lands Department.

Ms Corker acknowledged several challenges did need to be addressed by the Board, which had previously focussed on administrative or operational functions and had done little to provide direct advice to the Minister on pastoral lands and the pastoral industry.

"It is very exciting for me as a pastoralist to have been appointed to this position and to be able to lead a Board that can play a proactive and pivotal role during a defining time, when dynamic changes are proposed and supported by Government and expected by you, pastoral land users and business owners," Ms Corker said.

"My role is to provide leadership to the Board, chair meetings and when necessary, act the public spokesperson for the board.

"Priorities for 2010 are firstly for pastoral lease tenure reform, as we recognise that we need to create flexibility and security.

"We need a more secure form of pastoral lease tenure and a more integrated whole of government approach.

"The State Government is seeking action on the recommendations of the two recent industry reviews, there is a focus on regional development and realising the business and economic potential of the state's rangelands for issue other than the traditional grazing and mining."

Ms Corker said industry, along with the Regional Development and Lands Department and Agriculture and Food Department, needed to work together to encourage the sectors of conservation and mining and other departmental agencies to resolve the long-term land use and development challenges and to progress flexible use of the rangeland resource.

Diversification permits, rangeland condition monitoring, better communication with pastoralists and improved policy development were also high on the Board's agenda for this year.

"Current legislation restricts the activities allowed on pastoral leases and permits are not suitable for large-scale activities," Ms Corker said.

The Regional Development and Lands Department recently received more than 50 expressions of interest from pastoral lessees for new business ventures, with about 95 per cent of those assessed so far as possible under existing legislation, with about 60pc requiring a diversification permit.

"With the Agriculture and Food Department, we are implementing the new rangeland condition monitoring system," Ms Corker said.

"We are making a shift from focussing on stock numbers and what the pastoral lessee is doing to focus more on range condition and maintaining or improving that condition, rather than telling pastoralists' how to manage their lease."

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