THE Pastoralists and Graziers Association (PGA) has called for an emergency forum of pastoralists to debate Rangelands reform next Friday, adamant that the government is unwilling to negotiate key sticking points in its draft legislation.
Department of Lands officials last month held stakeholder meetings on the draft Land Administration Amendment Bill in the Kimberley and Pilbara.
But PGA president Tony Seabrook said the association had continued to receive information from concerned pastoralists and was in a stand-off with Lands Minister Terry Redman over the extent of ministerial power entrenched in the new Bill and its new security of tenure provisions.
Therefore the organisation had decided to call a special meeting.
"We are getting a shut door and are in confrontation with Mr Redman and getting no where," Mr Seabrook said.
"We have called this meeting as it will enable pastoralists to hear first-hand the comments on the proposed changes from industry leaders and independent lawyers.
"And it will give us the opportunity to discuss exactly what our approach will be in regards to this legislation."
Mr Seabrook said the invitation-only meeting was called because pastoralists had had a limited opportunity to see the Bill and understand its potential impact on their operations.
"I encourage all pastoralists to attend this important emergency PGA pastoral reform forum," Mr Seabrook said.
"This is an opportunity for all pastoral members to not only listen to independent legal and industry advice on how the proposed Rangelands reforms will affect your lease, but to also provide any insight or concerns you and other members may have with these changes."
The PGA said it had serious apprehensions about the move to scrap the Pastoral Lands Board and was disappointed with the lack of consultation the department had with the industry.
While it did not have concerns about the proposed new Rangelands leases, some pastoralists have said they would not move to the new option.
"We have sought independent legal advice on the proposed changes in the Bill, and there are areas that we believe are of concern and may affect the long-term future of the pastoral industry," Mr Seabrook said.
Anna Plains Station pastoralist and past Pastoral Lands Board member David Stoate attended the Broome forum and does not support Bill.
Mr Stoate suggested the government should look as a blueprint at Northern Territory legislation, which involves less regulation and has increased security of tenure.
"Pastoral lease tenure in WA is worse than all the other States and will not be improved by the changes," he said.
"The Rangelands lease is touted as a higher form of tenure, but in reality it will attract no interest from pastoralists due to the requirement for native title negotiation and the fact that no compensation for improvements is paid at the end of the lease term.
"The proposed tenure reform is yet another example of the actions of government not matching the rhetoric when it comes to developing the north of the State."
He said the government had a good opportunity to make a difference, but had wasted that opportunity with the Rangelands reform Bill.
Mr Stoate said the government wanted to develop the North, but when it comes to the crunch, it couldn't introduce any meaningful reform.
"The government is wanting to introduce a whole lot of additional regulation," Mr Stoate said.
"Also they are wanting to concentrate the powers in the hands of the minister, which I think could be very dangerous, especially if you get a minister who is unfavourable to the sector,'' he said.
"This would have been a good opportunity to improve tenure and attract investment."
Mr Stoate said there are clear cases where pastoralists have been trying to negotiate a freehold lease for more than 10 years and that the proposed reforms would not speed up that process.
"The government has not addressed the underlying problems," he said.
"The proposed reforms are very disappointing and will not drive investment into the sector.
"The amendments to the legislation will leave pastoralists with poorer tenure than they have now."
Mr Redman said consultation was continuing and he would consider feedback from this month's forums.
"The current series of public consultations is still underway and the Department of Lands is collating feedback from each forum," Mr Redman said.
"Feedback from the public consultations will be presented to myself, as Minister for Lands, for consideration before the final draft of the Bill is presented to cabinet and read into parliament during the spring term."
p More information: contact the PGA on 92121 6900 or email email@example.com.