Public ‘will foot the bill’

John Sykes says the restructure of the NSW Department of Primary Industries will affect agricultural production.
John Sykes says the restructure of the NSW Department of Primary Industries will affect agricultural production.

THE public will suffer at the supermarket as a result of the restructure of the NSW Department of Primary Industries.

That’s the view of Albury-based agronomist John Sykes, who described statewide job losses in agricultural advisory and extension services as a disaster.

Staff were informed two weeks ago that department advisory positions across the state would be dissolved, a move that’s part of the DPI, the Catchment Management Authorities and Livestock Health and Pest Authorities coming together to form Local Land Services.

“Under Local Land Services, the positions will continue to engage on a regular basis with primary producers, other participants in the market including private sector extension service providers, and industry representative bodies,” a DPI spokesman said.

“Staff affected by the restructure will be able to apply for the newly-created roles in Wagga and other locations or offered voluntary redundancies.”

But Mr Sykes, who now has a consulting business, said these changes were the end of an era and would affect agricultural production.

“As far as I can see it’s a complete disaster and we’ll now be in the hands of the likes of Elders and Landmark to provide information,” Mr Sykes said.

“Farmers have to wake up that the government is pulling out so the community has pulled out so they will pay more for their food.”

Mr Sykes said he had never regarded the government agronomists as competitors to his business; rather they had been helpful to him.

“Over the years, and we’ve done the sums, the place where consultants do the best is where government is also strongest,” he said.

“The reason I do well here is because I’ve got good farmers here; farmers make the consultant, makes the agronomists.”

Corowa pastoralist Susie Cay said a rally of emails had been sent around the district when farmers learnt the position of Wagga agronomist Lisa Castleman would be made redundant.

She had received many comments regarding how much Ms Castleman would be missed.

“She constantly supported agricultural meetings in our area with facts and figures as well as supporting many organisations such as Riverine Plains,” Mrs Cay said.

“In her official role as district agronomist she will indeed leave an enormous gap.”

For more on the restructure of NSW Agriculture, turn to Country Mail.