Pastoral Board | SPEECH


Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN ( Stuart ) ( 15:12 ):

I take this opportunity to make some brief comments with regard to the government’s proposed axing of the Pastoral Board. On Monday this week, the government advised that it intends to remove from operation 105 boards that currently serve our state in a wide range of various capacities. I agree that there is certainly room for improved efficiency. I agree that there are certainly some boards that should go, that have outlived their use-by date and that contribute no value.

I am also on the record as having said very clearly a few months ago, when this proposal was first made public, that the government’s heavy-handed approach to considering axing all boards across the state would do our state no good and in fact would be particularly disadvantageous to country people, rural and remote South Australians for whom the only opportunity to contribute to government decisions may well be through one of these boards.

On Monday this week, the government announced that it intends to remove the Pastoral Board. The Pastoral Board has been serving South Australia for 119 years. It oversees, on behalf of the government and the taxpayers who actually own the land, 741,000 square kilometres of rangelands in the low rainfall parts of South Australia. The area that is overseen comprises 218 stations, some as small as 20 square kilometres and the largest being 14,000 square kilometres.

Those properties, as I hope all members here would know, run cattle and sheep primarily, so they are very important food and fibre businesses for our state. The Premier recently said that the clean, green food production in our state was the second of his 10 highest priorities for our state. Our pastoral areas contribute enormously in that regard.

What is most important here is that the government must say, before they announce that they want to axe the Pastoral Board, what they would replace the Pastoral Board with. If the answer is nothing, then I am completely opposed to the proposal, but to say that the Pastoral Board is going to go without any indication of what might replace it is completely irresponsible. I also add that these sheep and cattle stations, these pastoral businesses, are overwhelmingly small businesses, and I think that is something the government often forgets. It thinks that small businesses are just in the Adelaide metropolitan area.

Most farming and agricultural operations are small businesses, and they deserve input into government decision-making and access to resources just as much as any other small businesses anywhere else. These small businesses operating in our pastoral regions also contribute to exports. Of course, a lot of the meat and some of the wool that is produced there is consumed within Australia, but importantly they contribute to our state’s exports as well.

This issue is integrally linked to the government taking over the natural resource management boards over the last few years. NRM boards used to be comprised of local people representing their communities, giving advice to government with their own independent staff. Independent NRM staff certainly worked closely in consultation with the government and the various environmental departments that existed over time—DEWNR, DENR, DEH, etc.—but now all that NRM work has been taken in under the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources.

They do not have the independent staff they used to have; in fact, they have none. They certainly have some external community board members, but to just say that all the functions of the Pastoral Board that exist at the moment will be taken over by the government’s own department, the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, would be completely inappropriate.

We actually have excellent pastoral land in South Australia compared with other states. It has been very well managed, in general. I have had concerns about the Pastoral Board with regard to them not being tough enough on occasions, not using the authority they have available to them, but I call on the government to explain what they would replace the Pastoral Board with.