Sweeping changes which come into effect from January next year will see a combining of NSW government services for landowners.
And part of these changes, if adopted, would eventually see landowners with as little as two hectares liable to pay rates to the newly formed Local Land Services (LLS).
Currently in the northeast NSW region, only landowners with ten hectares or more pay rates to the Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPA) for land management services.
An LHPA spokesperson told The Echo that they have recommended the change to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), which is yet to determine its findings.
‘The reason we recommend including smaller land sizes is that there are horse owners on smaller blocks, for example, and they would benefit from our services.’
But what about landowners who don’t have animals?
He said that each LLS region would regulate what rate amount they would apply.
Eleven regions throughout NSW have been named, and sub-regions for the north coast region run from Tweed down to Port Macquarie-Hastings.
And while landowners are encouraged to enrol now to vote ahead of the 2014 LLS board elections, a class action commenced against LHPA last April has been brewing, spearheaded by Trevor Kirk, a landowner located near Yass.
Locally, Goonengerry resident and landowner Howard Ferner has joined the chorus of dissatisfaction and is accusing the LHPA of being bloated, over-bureaucratised and not representing landowners.
‘They reap $34 million a year from 130,000 landowners as well as the state and federal government, but what do we get in return?’ he said.
Mr Furner claimed that after a serious wild dog problem around his property and area, he asked the LHPA for help.
Mr Furner said of a public meeting held a few years ago, ‘We were told by LHPA reps that there was no funding available to address the wild dog problem. They offered 1080 bait – which I would never use – but they wanted us to pay them for a course to be able to use it.’
He said the issue came to a head when debt collectors were recently called into the northern NSW region for unpaid LHPA rates. ‘They had 200 statements of claim for the north coast alone,’ he said.
And while the LHPA spokesperson conceded that some landowners in the northern region are refusing to pay their rates, he believes they are getting value for money. ‘Biosecurity is a statewide concern, and the reason that we haven’t experienced the same problems as the UK is that we manage the land well. For example, there is a response time of within six hours for hendra virus. It’s insurance,’ he said. ‘We also offer advice and assistance.’
As for 1080 baits, he claimed that it only targets wild dogs when used correctly, and that there’s ‘not enough staff to go around’ to trap wild dogs.
But Mr Furner is still unsatisfied with the services LHPA provide. He said that recent LHPA financial statements claim $3.4 million was spent on consultants. ‘For what?’ he asks. ‘The LHPA makes more money from my property than I do.’ For LLS election information and forms, visit www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/locallandservices. And those wanting to know more about the class action against LHPA can visit http://lhpaclassaction.com.