Farmers happy with LLS boundaries but not plan

PRODUCERS have been given the first glimpse of draft boundaries for the 11 new Local Land Services (LLS) boards set to come into play in 2014.

The boundaries will now overlap better with local government, which the Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPA) and Catchment Management Authorities (CMA) failed to do.

Cooma NSW Farmers chair Craig Mitchell said he was happy with the boundary for the Monaro area.

"The boundaries run along production areas and it is probably the right boundary for our area, although it is a large area," Mr Mitchell said.

"I sent out an email to members on Sunday asking if anyone was worried about it and I haven't heard anything back yet.

"But there is plenty still to go [with the LLS plans]."

Preliminary results from the NSW Farmers survey showed strong support for draft boundaries for the 11 LLS boards to be based on land use boundaries (for example, irrigation district, tablelands) or a combination of land use boundaries and current CMA, LHPA and local government boundaries.

John Keniry, who is chairing the reference panel, said the proposed regions unveiled this week were far from locked down.

Dr Keniry said the proposed LLS board boundaries had been determined by working out broad regions, based on communities, catchments and land forms, and then refining the boundaries of those by matching them up with local government borders.

"We've tried to make sure, with the possible exception of the western division, that they're all geographic divisions you can get around in a reasonable time," he said.

"This gets one set of organisations and one set of boundaries."

Dr Keniry said the draft boundaries would remain open for public consultation until December 7 -(tomorrow), ahead of the reference panel's next meeting on December 17 where a final decision about regions would be made.

"Nobody is totally wedded to those, we're interested to get any feedback."

But a new survey suggests farmers are still far from happy with the proposed structure of the boards themselves and the fact local ratepayers will only elect half of the directors sitting on them. (The other half will be direct ministerial appointments.)

The NSW Farmers survey, which received close to 700 responses in less than a week, found 63 per cent were unhappy with the proposed board structure.

The proposed structure is now in the hands of a reference panel which is facing a strict deadline to nail down key elements of the new LLS boards structure, to give Department of Primary Industries staff - some of whom will move into LLS - more certainty.

It has already been determined there will be 49 new agricultural advisory positions in the new LLS boards, which will fall under the CMA structure until 2014.

NSW Farmers president Fiona Simson, who sits on the reference panel, said the amount of respondents to the association's survey showed landholders were alarmed the process "might have been going ahead without hearing what they thought".

"There is a huge time priority. Clearly there are some things, some factors the government want to finalise as soon as possible so as to have the least uncertainty for some of the staff," she said.

Mrs Simson said the association was interested in determining the functions of the new body.

"We certainly don't want to see any new model just moving the deck chairs [around]," Mrs Simson said.

"We want to make sure we can have a total change of focus and we would prefer a primary production focus in the new model.

"We've asked government for an assurance we will continue to have full input into the design of the model."

Dr Keniry hoped to have a paper on a proposed governance structure to present at the next reference panel meeting.

"We will put it out for public consultation and we'll have to take into account all of the comments and then come to a considered view," he said.

"We've identified pretty well what needs to be done and now we've just got to get in and get the papers done and make it all happen. Everybody is headed in the same direction."

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