15.4 C
Byron Shire
May 24, 2024

Local Land Services ‘another govt rort’

Latest News

Surfing on the spectrum – free fun for everyone at Lennox and Byron this Sunday

Ocean Heroes will be giving children who are on the autism spectrum the chance to experience what it is like to be in the ocean on a surfboard this Saturday at Lennox Head and Sunday in Byron Bay.

Other News

Primary care nurses supported in community

Health services, particularly GP services, have been stretched over recent years and new funding to support nurses and build...

A long story

I see that Israel supporters take exception to the expression ‘from the river to the sea’ as meaning that...

The 2024 budget wash up

It's impossible to make everyone happy on budget night, but Treasurer Jim Chalmers' 2024 effort has upset more than most, as the government struggles to avoid inflation rebounding, make more things in Australia, and do something about the cost of living.

Consumer watchdog asked to investigate MasterChef ‘renewable gas’ claims

Claims that ‘renewable gas’ is making MasterChef 'greener' are under scrutiny following a complaint to the ACCC.

Final kambo witnesses called, inquest yet to hear from Lore Solaris and Cameron Kite

The Jarrad Antonovich inquest ground inexorably towards its conclusion yesterday, with more evidence from witnesses showing the tragedy could possibly have been avoided, and certainly the ongoing damage lessened, if everyone involved had taken responsibility earlier.

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Why are we so blasé about violent pornography?

Why is it a turn on to hurt us? Recent intersectional studies have shown that online misogyny and violent pornography are contributors to a sharp rise in domestic violence. In NSW alone, police attend 500 incidents every day. If there were 500 threats or incidents at banks, or to the government, we would be in a state of emergency. Instead we stop, shake our heads, we listen to good men in government speak empty words, make a few promises, and move on. If you’ve ever lived through violence, it’s pretty well what your abuser does after hitting you.

Goonengerry resident Howard Furner, pictured, says Local Land Services 'is of no value’.
Goonengerry resident Howard Furner, pictured, says Local Land Services ‘is of no value’.

Hans Lovejoy

While NSW government services for rural landowners morphed into Local Land Services (LLS) on January 1, a class action against LLS claims the revenue collected is unconstitutional and is not value for money, especially for those who don’t run stock or grow crops.

The centralising of services is the ‘biggest change to agricultural services in 60 years’, says the body representing NSW Farmers, and has seen the LLS replace the Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPA) and Catchment Management Authorities (CMA).

The class action comes as Goonengerry resident Howard Furner faces a pre-trial court hearing in Lismore on February 25 over unpaid LHPA rates for his property. Furner’s land has been reforested after years of cattle use, and therefore is without livestock or food crops. He told The Echo, ‘I don’t even open their letters any more because they don’t provide any services.’

Apart from LHPA failing to help with the wild dog crisis in the shire around 2011, Furner claims that LHPA annual returns show millions were spent on consultants.

Russell Preston is in a similar situation, because his land doesn’t run stock or grow crops.

The Brisbane-based theoretical physicist owns 12 hectares in The Pocket, and told The Echo he refuses to pay LHPA rates ‘as it is of no value’.

And as Preston found out, the state government has the power to claim private property for unpaid rates. ‘Despite registering my property in a voluntary conservation agreement, the then-Rural Land Protection Board (RLPB) put my property up for sale for unpaid rates in 2003. It was only averted moments before an auction was to take place.’

He added that ‘no politicians have been any use’ with his cause.

A recent survey conducted by NSW Farmers revealed 56 per cent of respondents say that LHPA is not value for money.

Class action

So is the new LLS an unwieldy bureaucratic behemoth acting illegally? ‘This is bigger than the Titanic and no media are reporting on it,’ says 75-year-old landowner Trevor Kirk, who has set up a class action against the LLS.

The retired corporate accountant describes himself as a ‘habitat and fresh air farmer’ and has been fighting the ‘funding regime of the NSW government’ since 2006 on the grounds it is ‘discriminatory, in breach of the Australian Constitution, persecutes landholders and is in their worst interests’.

‘Under Sir Lunch-a-lot [disgraced Labor primary industries minister, Ian McDonald], they reduced the land size from ten to four hectares, but there was an uproar and they changed it back.’

Kirk’s aim is to get landowners to contribute to a ‘fighting fund’ that will enable a High Court challenge.

‘I believe it’s unconstitutional for a state government to create any tax or levy,’ he says. ‘The federal government set taxes, and the state can only raise taxes, not impose them.’

He also claims that despite the name changes, NSW Liberal, Nationals and Labor parties have let the rort continue.

‘In this new LLS structure, MP Katrina Hodgkinson controls 58 per cent of the votes and she has set the rules.

‘She appears to be appointing stooges like her predecessors did.’

Despite Kirk’s claims of ‘business as usual’, there are now new managers and bureaucrats in charge.

Bruce Brown is one of the new crop and is the new north coast general manager of LLS, based in Coffs Harbour.

And as with the North Coast Holiday Parks, there is a corporate tone to the government-run organisation. Brown told The Echo he comes to the job as a former NSW Farmers and corporate lobbyist, and ‘did work with helping banks develop connections with the farming sector.’

‘I’m from the private sector and am commercially driven,’ he said, ‘and we will be triple-bottom-line focused with economic growth, as the sector has dipped in previous years.’

To achieve this, he said, the LLS will hold workshops and provide advice and education. And while the budget of the north coast LLS was still being finalised, Brown said the region – which covers Port Macquarie to Tweed  – employs ‘around 40’.

But hard questions are still on the drawing board, with Brown admitting that the exemption sugarcane farmers had with LHPA is being reconsidered, as is the rateable system of land for ratepayers.

As for upcoming board member elections, enrolments closed Monday, and Brown conceded that 1,000-odd enrolments was a ‘low’ figure.

Upon hearing of Mr Furner’s court case, he said he would be ‘delighted’ to come and attend any group meeting with landowners who are dissatisfied with LSS services.

For more contact the Grafton office on 6642 0625.

 


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Services that many do not want or use ? Sounds familiar. Another sweet little ( so far ) GovCo corpseorate unit imposed on the “flesh and blood” inhabitants. And waiting in the wings are the “officers of the court” to help out ( at a considerable fee of course ). What a racket. While people are struggling against institutionalised thuggery they are forced to put money into the kitty that pays their taunters. Great scam. BTW when we talk about “the Constitution” which one are we talking about; the 1901 original or Gough Whitlam’s 1973 copyrighted one ?

  2. The Minister has been “ordered” to shave millions off the DPI budget, instead she’s spending like a “drunken sailor”. She has already hand picked & appointed 58.5% of the 11 Boards (plus the Chair of Chairs (CoC) & each of the Chairs of the 11 LLS regions, presumably each with the usual Chair’s casting vote) so with this perfect example of totalitarianism why does she need 41.5% of “Independent” directors other than to make the LLS look genuinely honest, democratic & transparent which it can’t possibly be?. She said the “independents” will receive a stipend of about $20,000 pa. So 33 + 1 extra in the Western Region = 34 x $20k = $680,000 +super + travel & accommodation expenses of who knows? (Remember Sir Lunchalot as DPI Minister?). my advice is resist & defy LLS at every turn & in March 2015 vote for any party other than Labo(U)r or LNP with preferences going to neither.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Wardell landowners asked to support fire ant eradication

Nearly 900 Wardell properties require treatment for fire ants, but the eradication team needs permission from each landowner.

The Darling Muffs of May need your help to reach fundraising target

Raising money to support frontline services for women who are homeless or at risk of homelessness has been the driving force behind the Darling Muffs of May’s fundraising this year.

Why does Iron Gates developer get another bite at the DA?

Locals, concerned residents and other parties were left in the dark for the first 15 minutes of the Iron Gates (Goldcoral Pty Ltd) Land...

Death and Dying expo May 25

On Saturday May 25, a free Death and Dying expo will be held at the Mullumbimby Civic Hall from 10am-2pm.