The announcement by the NSW State Government late last year that support services for rural landholders are to be significantly reformed is causing concern for the Landcare movement across the state.
The reforms will mean that our main source of funding —the Catchment Management Authority— will disappear and its roles and services will merge with the Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPAs) and DPI Extension Services. New semi-autonomous entities called ‘Local Land Services Boards’ will administer the services currently provided by theses agencies across the State from July 2014. Landcare networks across the Northern Rivers Region understand that there will be no continuation of contract funding for their activities after 30th June 2013 which will seriously threaten the existence of the 13 community organisations that support our local landholders. This will include help for landholders looking for project funding, development and running of local Landcare projects and information services.(including this website and newsletters!).The State Government hopes these changes will reduce duplication and increase efficiencies in delivery of services to rural landholders. A Reference Panel chaired by Dr John Keniry AM (Natural Resources Commissioner) has been appointed to build the new Local Land Services (LLS) structure. Mick Keogh, Executive Director of the Australian Farm Institute, will work alongside Dr Keniry and specifically with community groups, stakeholders and staff to develop LLS. The Reference Panel is comprised of representatives from NSW Farmers, the LHPAs, CMAs, the DPI, Landcare NSW, Greening Australia and the Local Government and Shires Association.
The panel’s key focus will be to outline the core and non-core functions LLS will provide a new governance structure which “ensures appropriate accountability to the NSW government and other funding contributors” and “information on a cost recovery and complementary service-pricing system”. Analysts believe that this bureau-speak really means that the current LHPA landholder rating system will be expanded to cover a broader range of services but that direct government spending on services such as farm extension and support for landholders through incentive programs will be reduced.
The formal inclusion of Landcare on the LLS Reference Panel (through the NSW State body Landcare NSW) is heartening, but there are serious challenges ahead for organisations like ours, especially in the coming transition period whilst the LLS is being set up. Over the years Landcare funding has had a number of crises but none seem to as clear and present as this one. We will be making representations to our politicians and the relevant ministers in the coming months and will look to you, our members, and your support.
To this end, keep up to speed with developments through the Landcare NSW on line forum at http://www.landcarensw.blogspot.com.au/
You can also comment on the LLS proposals at the NSW DPI feedback LLS site http://haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au/locallandservices
Finally, the LLS reference panel are hosting a series of community consultation sessions around the State. Our closest will be Lismore and we urge you to go along and ask what how the new LLS arrangements will support Landcare.