Pastoral land reforms havebecome public brawl: PGA

24 Mar, 2016 01:00 AM
Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) president Tony Seabrook will fight for changes to the Lands Administration Act despite little positive response from Lands Minister Terry Redman during
Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) president Tony Seabrook will fight for changes to the Lands Administration Act despite little positive response from Lands Minister Terry Redman during "closed doors" meetings.

THE Pastoral Lands Board (PLB) issue has become a public brawl, according to the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) president Tony Seabrook.

He said after six months of trying to resolve the issue behind closed doors with Lands Minister Terry Redman, with little response, the PGA would continue its fight for WA pastoralists.

"The PGA has written a letter to the Minister outlining its concerns about the future of the PLB," Mr Seabrook said.

"It was signed by all five remaining current and past-PGA presidents."

"We want consultation, but up until now we have only been rail-roaded.

"It has been a very slow process, up until 10 days ago we got told by the Minister that we wouldn't be getting anymore changes and since the letter we have had no word."

Mr Seabrook said he believed changes to re-write the Lands Administration Act, to create a new form of tenure known as a Rangelands lease, would in fact weaken pastoral leases.

"The government's reform of Rangeland leases and its plan to scrap the PLB are not be in the best interests of industry," he said.

Under the Land Administration Act, the PLB is a statutory body, which shares responsibility with the Lands Minister for administering all of WA's pastoral leases.

At this year's annual Rangelands conference Mr Redman outlined more detail about the PLB being replaced with a Rangelands Advisory Board (RAB).

The board would include two representatives with pastoral experience, which make up a board of 10, from Aboriginal, conservation and tourism groups.

"What does experience mean?" Mr Seabrook asked.

"Does that mean they are current active pastoralists?

"We are not sure because there are no specifics.

"And there also are eight other representatives that don't have the slightest idea about the pastoral industry.

"The PLB is a statutory body but this RAB is all just a bit wishy-washy.

"We require the PLB to remain in place."

Mr Seabrook said he was disappointed talks had not been open and transparent and the topic had become "poisoned".

"We have had no response from this letter," he said.

"All we want is to be able to sit down with the Minister and go through the department's 44-point document point-by-point, and have some serious in-depth discussion about them.

"This change erodes the security to stay and invest."

Mr Redman defended the move and said consultation will commence State-wide.

"The proposed Land Administration Amendment Bill 2016 will be available for public consultation next month at a range of stakeholder forums throughout regional WA," Mr Redman said.

"Following consultation with industry, including the PGA, I added in two extra 'buffers' between pastoralists and a future Minister considering a potentially adverse decision on a pastoral lease in relation to Rangeland condition.

"The PGA has been asking for a buffer between the Minister and pastoralists and I've given the industry two - one before a significant adverse decision is made and one after.

"The first is that before an adverse decision on rangeland condition such as directive on stocking numbers is made, the Minister must consult with an independent expert, who is chosen through consultation with industry (including PGA).

"The second is that lessees will have the right to appeal to the State Administrative Tribunal if the Minister decides to prevent the statutory right of renewal on the grounds of non-compliance.

"These are both significant new safeguards that the industry does not currently enjoy.

"I believe these proposals address the concerns PGA presented to me.

"The Pastoral Lands Board is currently not an independent buffer as the Minister has the power to direct the PLB in regards to any decision it makes."

Mr Seabrook said Mr Redman had dug his heels in on the issue.

"All I am asking for is for Terry to listen," Mr Seabrook said.

"He thinks he has had consultation, but he hasn't.

"I am sorry it has got to this point, but we have offered him all the opportunities to make this work.

"I am staggered that we have come to the point where we have to say, 'Minister you have got this wrong'."

Mt Magnet pastoralist Jorgen Jensen, Yowergabbie station, said the southern half of the State felt forgotten.

"People out here have tried tourism, it just doesn't work, no one wants to come out here," he said.

"We don't have irrigation, we have a dire dog problem and so we have been forgotten about.

"We attended the conference in Perth and we were really disappointed there was not one mention about the southern pastoralists or small stock.

"They have given up on us and I don't think these changes will benefit us."



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