WA push for GRDC headquarters

28 May, 2015 01:00 AM
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MORAWA grower Chris Moffet said he welcomed the push to relocate the GRDC to a regional area.
Northam is a thriving hub of agricultural activity, the region is surrounded by leading grain grower
MORAWA grower Chris Moffet said he welcomed the push to relocate the GRDC to a regional area.

THE WA Nationals want Northam to be the base for the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC).

Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce is pushing to move the GRDC out of its Canberra home and into a regional area.

And Nationals Member for Central Wheatbelt Mia Davies says Northam would be a prime location, touting WA's position as the nation's largest grain producing and exporting region as credentials to back her call.

"I support the Minister Joyce's push to decentralise our research organisations, it makes sense to embed these organisations in areas that are close to the coalface," she said.

"Northam is a thriving hub of agricultural activity, the region is surrounded by leading grain growers, has a network of agricultural education and training institutions, well-established transport infrastructure and a growing population."

In a recent letter to the GRDC, Mr Joyce has asked the corporation to cover the potential $31.2 million move and advise him by the end of June which location best suits its needs, with a final decision to include consultation.

Ms Davies said WA's continuing growth in production, reaching record levels and worth $5 billion annually, placed the State as a key location for the GRDC.

She also added WA was home to Australia's leading grain research authority, the Australian Export Grains Innovation Centre (AEGIC) and the geographical proximity would benefit the GRDC.

Ms Davies said the WA Government had made investment in the agricultural sector through the Seizing the Opportunity initiative equating to $300m.

"We are targeting the biggest spend in the history of agriculture in this State to drive innovation, support growth and remove barriers in the supply chain for our primary producers," she said.

Federal Liberal Member for O'Connor Rick Wilson also supports a GRDC based in WA and warned if the slated Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, location went ahead growers would be disenchanted with the east coast focus.

"I think that moving the entire operation to Wagga Wagga would further isolate it from WA growers," he said.

"In the past WA growers have contributed up to 40 per cent of GRDC levies and have received only 27pc of it back for WA projects.

"While allowing for some administrative costs, there is some discontent already among WA growers that we're not getting a full share of our research and development investment in WA.

"I think moving the headquarters will reinforce the view that WA is not getting a fair deal."

Mr Wilson flagged the University of WA in Perth and the Muresk Campus near Northam as sites well suited to a GRDC headquarters.

"I think the Minister has opened a can of worms here and while I understand why he's pushed for decentralisation, in a national body such as the GRDC it's going to be hard to find a site that will keep everybody happy."

Mr Wilson also said the question of who pays for the move should not be answered with the grower- contributed levy funds that run the GRDC.

"I think the notion that growers who have contributed an R&D levy be forced to pay out on a politically inspired decision to move the headquarters is ludicrous and I think there will be a very heavy pushback from growers," he said.

"I think it will be a hard sell for the Minister."

WAFarmers grains section president Duncan Young referred to Mr Joyce's plans as a "social relocation" that grower's levy payments should not be funding.

"Until there's a business case that can state it's going to be of benefit for the growers, WAFarmers sees it as a social relocation and believes levy money shouldn't be used," he said.

"If there is shown to be a good case to relocate with advantages then we will examine that and support it if we see the benefits.

"But I struggle to see how a good case could be put forward because of the amount of money involved."

Mr Young said a decentralisation plan he would support involved maintaining GRDC administration centrally in Canberra and regional offices matching the current GRDC structure.

"Using the three GRDC regions in existence you could base an office in regional areas and make it more autonomous for funding and driving efforts locally," he said.

"We would like to see that over a whole site move to Wagga Wagga or otherwise.

"This would decentralise but in a more targeted manner."

Pastoralists and Graziers Association western graingrowers chairman John Snooke warned decentralising the GRDC had come at a time when the conversation should be centred on creating a more efficient R&D organisation for grain growers.

He said the current R&D agricultural levies senate inquiry was finally highlighting the need for change in the sector.

"I see it (the GRDC decentralisation) as a secondary issue, our organisation doesn't believe until the system is changed that any move of the GRDC will make a difference," he said.

"We have concerns that finally we're starting to see some light being shone on the GRDC through this senate inquiry and I'm concerned this is a diversionary tactic to starve that process of oxygen.

"We want the GRDC conversation to be on productivity and that's always been our focus.

"We're not getting the productivity gains from the mandatory levy so we need to look at the system and make improvements in that area."

Mr Snooke said spending money on new buildings would not help Australia reach productivity levels as seen in the US and Canada.

"We eagerly await the recommendations of the senate committee looking into the levy system and we're delighted that Senator Leyonhjlem and Senator Reynolds are really shining the light onto this whole area of agriculture," he said.

"The ultimate test of the GRDC is, would it be funded if the levy was voluntary?"

MORAWA grower Chris Moffet said he welcomed the push to relocate the GRDC?to a regional area and hoped it would better connect the corporation with the areas it is working for.

"The more things we can get out of Canberra and into regional areas the better," he said.

"I would support the notion of decentralisation and an office being based in WA, but bureaucrats are ensconced in the Eastern States.

"The GRDC needs to get out where the money is eventually headed in the grain growing regions of Australia; and they don't grow much (grain) in Canberra.

"I'm all for research getting out of the offices into the field."

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READER COMMENTS

Jock Munro
28/05/2015 4:40:04 AM, on The Land

Wagga Wagga is a much better choice-not only is it more central to all grain growing states but it has Charles Sturt University, The Graham Centre and it is located in a strong Agricultural region. It is also a large inland city with all of the facilities needed to attract good staff.
Hydatid
28/05/2015 6:25:16 AM, on The Land

I've lived in Northam....it was horrible!
impartial
28/05/2015 6:32:26 AM, on Farm Weekly

Adelaide. has by far all the assets to tick all boxes related to this very good idea.
Jed
28/05/2015 6:38:18 AM, on Farm Weekly

I support the move to Wagga Wagga. There is more chance that the staff would move a little way up the highway to Wagga than all the way to WA. Add Qld , NSW, and Vic plus SA and you will find Wagga more central than WA besides we are talking about more Grains than just the couple they grow in WA. The cost of ferrying the Good Ol boys that make up the cliquey little group that control the Chairperson position wouldn't like the commute to WA either.
Mock Junro
28/05/2015 6:49:37 AM, on The Land

CSU doesn't rate a mention in the top 50 groups that GRDC funds. And with only a few flights a day out they would be effectively grounded and not be able to serve the rest of us. Hell Wagga doesn't even have the NBN. Goodbye international collaboration such as brought us the genetics for most new varieties.
boris
28/05/2015 7:27:01 AM, on Farm Weekly

Moffet is out on a limb promoting Northam. The town has been in decline for over a decade, much like the GRDC!
Jed
28/05/2015 9:55:03 AM, on Farm Weekly

For all the good the GRDC does with my and thousands of others levy money, a TIN SHED or an empty Graincorp storage would do them for an office. Paying GPA is the biggest waste of our money. Unelected and unaccountable yet they claim to represent all the levy payers? When did we get a chance to vote for them or put forward our policy for them to follow. Like the election of the GRDC directors, we don't have a say even though we pay plenty to them to waste. Like their project that came up with the world shattering news that headers start fires at harvest. What is going on with all this waste?
RasorW.A.
28/05/2015 11:31:29 AM, on Farm Weekly

It is strange nobody of the above have mentioned the $31.8 million to be payed for relocation from growers levies.Like the G.S.T.returns to W.A. at less than 30% it would be a good case for W.A. to keep the $40 million paid by grain growers to the GRDC to our side of the fence. It is clearly evident the Eastern States do not care about us in W.A.!!!! We have a couple of good footy teams though!!!
JW
28/05/2015 11:51:24 AM, on Farm Weekly

Lived in Northam for 18 months - love the place. Easy access to Perth and the Wheatbelt, has Dept of Agricultural presence and is far from in decline, every year for the past 8 there has been population growth and all the facilities of a vibrant regional centre. Would be a great choice for the GRDC
relocater
28/05/2015 3:22:15 PM, on Farm Weekly

If the GRDC wants to attract the best minds it should be located in a capital city. Maybe they could have a regional office in 10 years or something.
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