NSW Labor will establish a full-time Agriculture Commissioner to provide a strong, independent voice for the industry.
The Shadow Minister for Primary Industries Jenny Aitchison and Labor’s candidate for the Upper Hunter Jeff Drayton made the announcement on a visit to a farm in Scone today.
Mr Drayton said Upper Hunter farmers have been left to fend for themselves after the worst drought in the State’s history, bushfires, COVID-19 and the recent floods.
“Farmers in NSW pump billions into our state’s economy and all our farmers have gotten in return is a part-time bureaucrat from Canberra. The National Party promised to appoint an Agriculture Commissioner to resolve land use conflicts, but that is definitely not what they have delivered,” Mr Drayton said.
Upper Hunter farmers are having to fight for the right to farm – with increasing development on agricultural land, a reduced agricultural workforce, lack of training and no real whole-of-government plan for the success of the agriculture industry in NSW. In their time of greatest need, the National Party have deserted farmers.
"I’m pleased NSW Labor has committed to delivering a real Agriculture Commissioner. Industry and farmers should not have to fend for themselves. They need urgent guidance and support to navigate through the planning process. They are up against huge multi-nationals and faceless government departments. They’re being short-changed by the Nationals’ watered down, part-time Agriculture Commissioner."
Ms Aitchison said: “Labor’s NSW Agriculture Commissioner will become a full-time statutory appointment with legislated powers, independent of Government. That means they’ll advocate for all farmers, particularly on planning issues. They’ll be frank and fearless in their recommendations to Government, and ensure farmers voices are heard.”
“With the constant infighting in the Coalition, farmers have no certainty about what planning regime will apply to them next week. It all seems to depend on whether the Nats or the Liberals are winning the day in Cabinet. It’s time to take the petty party politics out of the way this Government deals with one of our state’s most important industries," she said.
“NSW Farmers and Dairy Connect have all been supportive of a strong, vocal Agriculture Commissioner, who is independent of Government, with statutory powers. It’s vital that farmers have a real voice that can cut across the silos of Government.
“Our farmers deserve better than a part-time Agriculture Commissioner who still doesn’t even have a phone number they can call him on. Farmers need a Commissioner with the statutory powers to assist the industry and make a real difference, independent of Government.
“When a developer comes knocking on your door, you want someone who can help you navigate the process."
In the first year, the Commissioner will develop:
- a mechanism for ensuring that agriculture issues are given appropriate consideration in government decision making, particularly in the planning system.
- an agricultural workforce plan ensuring quality training opportunities for new entrants, and supplying workers to harvest our food and fibre.
- an advocacy process for individual farmers who require assistance in dealing with different government agencies.
- an export and trade plan for primary industries in NSW
The Agriculture Commissioner will work closely with Labor’s Dairy & Fresh Food Commissioner to improve outcomes for all farmers in NSW.