Govt goes cold on ag

Govt goes cold on ag


Agribusiness
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IS the State Government really serious about assisting the agricultural industry?

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IS the State Government really serious about assisting the agricultural industry?

That's the obvious question following exhaustive representations by the Farm Machinery & Industry Association of WA (FMIA) regarding high load permits.

As highlighted in last week's Farm Weekly, the permit system is promoting illegal transport throughout the Wheatbelt because of ignorant bureaucracy.

In one case, it is preventing Kellerberrin manufacturer Moylan Silos from making deliveries because it cannot meet the standard 4.5 metres height restriction needed to access roads outside its factory doors.

The State Government has yet to reply to a Farm Weekly request for a comment and only replied to the FMIA last Monday, after a follow-up letter by the FMIA (sent on October 22), requesting information on high load permits and a web-based facility to streamline the identification of line heights and road crossings throughout the South West Interconnected System.

An exasperated FMIA executive officer John Henchy said this week it was apparent Western Power had no interest in helping smaller non-mining companies or trying to better understand how country-based industries operate.

"We have been trying for close to four years to get to talk to someone who can give us some hope for improvements in the permit system," he said.

"But we have been stalled and given reasons why it can't be done, all the way along.

"There are people at the operation level who appear to understand where we are coming from but trying to talk to management has proved elusive.

"I wrote a letter to the Farm Weekly outlining our concerns with the permit system on January 5 this year and it was responded to by the Executive General Manager Operations Western Power, Ken Brown.

"I wanted to have a face-to-face meeting with him to better explain our position but leaving a message with his PA and sending an email failed to get a response.

"In a nutshell the feeling we get from Western Power, either directly at a lower level or when we make representation through the responsible Minister, Peter Collier, is that they are not interested in talking to us but prefer to hide behind letters in the hope that it will string things out or that we may even go away.

"The web-based facility to help our members apply on line for permits (using Google Maps), is a classic.

"The idea was apparently being developed five years ago but was later abandoned because of budget restrictions.

"In early 2011 Minister Collier was told by Western Power that it was again looking at a web-based system and it was expected to be ready in early 2013.

"We are now told that there is currently no time frame for commissioning such a system."

In last week's letter to the FMIA, Mr Collier said the rationale for discontinuing work on the web-based system was supported by two other expected improvements.

"Firstly, it is believed a large number of transport industry users are likely to benefit from the Main Roads WA-sponsored program of work to underground over 350 power lines across the South West," Mr Collier wrote.

"The identified power lines are part of a three-phase program of work which started in May 2012 with eight lines in Wubin being undergrounded.

"Construction for all phases of work are expected to be completed by mid-2015.

"Secondly, in specific recognition of the farming industry's concerns with regards to moving equipment around the road network, I am advised that Western Power has recently changed standards to increase the road-crossing for new lines by another 2.3 metres, starting in early 2013.

"I recognise that the discontinuation of the web-based facility is not the outcome you were expecting, however, I am sure you can appreciate the need to focus resources on critical safety and maintenance programs.

"I am pleased to hear that Western Power has, in recent years, worked closely with you to better understand the concerns of primary producers, developing processes to increase the efficiency of high load transportation."

The last paragraph is baffling considering Mr Henchy's claim of failing to illicit a response from Western Power's general manager (operations).

The condescending tone of Mr Collier's letter will further frustrate FMIA members who, collectively, claim bureaucrats continue to dictate to government.

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