Pastoralists search for EO

26 Apr, 2013 02:00 AM
Damian and Kirsty Forshaw, Nita Downs station.
Damian and Kirsty Forshaw, Nita Downs station.

THE Kimberley branch of the Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) has voted to appoint its own executive officer.

Tensions between Kimberley pastoralists and the PGA executive were aired in Farm Weekly last month, with several pastoralists calling for the group to merge with WAFarmers.

They also believed the organisation was being influenced by "a select few PGA grain growing members".

The decision to appoint a northern executive officer was made at last week's PGA Kimberley meeting in Broome.

Kirsty Forshaw, Nita Downs station, Broome, said there had been discussions around creating the role since late last year.

She said the Kimberley division identified a need to strengthen and improve the profile of the pastoralist industry.

"Much of the work from the PGA is done by volunteers up here," Ms Forshaw said.

"It is a lot of work for them and we need someone to share the load.

"It is a massive job especially for people who have their own stations to run.

"So we thought it was time we had someone professional cover the pastoral side of things and taking on that role."

An executive committee was also established, which according to Ms Forshaw, would enhance the representation of the northern pastoral industry and assist the executive officer in the new role.

Ms Forshaw, along with seven other pastoralists, make up that committee.

Although some Kimberley pastoralists were pushing for a separation from the PGA, Ms Forshaw said most saw the value in staying with the organisation.

She said there was a lot of history and knowledge within the PGA and there was no point starting another group.

"The Premier Colin Barnett and Agricultural and Food Minister Ken Baston have recently given a clear message that they want a united professional body," Ms Forshaw said.

"So we took that on board.

"Most of us were keen to stay with the PGA anyway and this is more about just improving what we have."

Ms Forshaw wanted to make it clear it was not about pastoralists being discontented with the PGA and they still held their relationship with the PGA in high regard.

"We do want to work with the PGA and we believe there is a good relationship there," she said.

But Ms Forshaw said pastoralists had begun to recognise times were changing and the industry needed to connect with the public more.

She said part of the new executive officer's role would include industry promotion and the use of social media.

While the finer details were still being worked out, Ms Forshaw said ideally the position would be based in the Kimberley with regular travel to Perth, Canberra and other city centres.

"We want someone that is media savvy and proactive when dealing with government and be on the front foot when issues come out," she said.

"We don't want to be behind the eight ball like we were with the live export ban.

"We would also like to see alliances with other groups in the Northern Territory and Queensland and in WA, just to get a broader scope."

The role is set to be funded by the pastoralists themselves, along with grants and sponsorship arrangements, but not by the PGA.

When asked if pastoralists could afford to fund this themselves, Ms Forshaw said she saw it as a necessary cost.

"We realise we can't expect people to fork out too much at the start until we see how it goes," she said.

"But a lot of us are at that point now that we have seen all these things happen to our industry and we have seen how much money we have lost.

"We can't afford to not be up to speed with what is going on.

"We see it as a vital cost."

PGA president Rob Gillam, welcomed the passing of the motion and said the decision was a move forward for the organisation in representing the interests of its members

"It has always been the mandate of the PGA that the strength of our organisation comes from our divisions, and this decision by our Kimberley members to have their own executive officer is to be applauded," Mr Gillam said.

"Due to operating in one of the most remote and isolated areas of the State, it is often difficult for many Kimberley pastoralists to attend the PGA Executive and take an active part in determining our policies.

"This decision will ensure that, as is the case with all of our divisions, the voice of the PGA Kimberley Division continues to be properly represented."



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