Producers fired up over Biosecurity Queensland move

The Hermitage Research Centre in 1997.
The Hermitage Research Centre in 1997.

WOEFUL, blatant cost cutting and another "kick in the guts for agriculture" is how Southern Downs primary producers are describing a state government decision to move the region's Biosecurity Queensland staff out of Warwick.

Minister for Agriculture, John McVeigh confirmed Biosecurity Queensland staff would be shifted from the current DAFF offices in Fitzroy St to Hermitage Research Station.

The government's capacity to guard the state's biosecurity is fundamental to the safety of the agricultural sector.

"The decision to move all four Biosecurity Queensland staff from the Warwick office to the Hermitage Research Station has been made in order to consolidate the local Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry presence at a single site and to provide greater efficiencies," Mr McVeigh said.

"Relocating staff to Hermitage Research Station will not reduce the level of service these officers will provide to the Warwick area.

Four Biosecurity Queensland staff remain in Warwick: Two inspectors, an administration officer and a project officer who works off-site.

But local landholders like Andrew O'Dea, from Elbow Valley, reacted angrily believing the decision would only make vital agricultural services less accessible.

"It's a woeful decision. Sounds like blatant cost cutting. Biosecurity staff need to be front and centre and not hidden away out of sight, out of mind," Mr O'Dea said.

But AgForce chief executive officer Charles Burke said

DAFF's ability to delivery biosecurity outcomes was more important than location.

"The government's capacity to guard the state's biosecurity is fundamental to the safety of the agricultural sector," Mr Burke said.

"While we acknowledge the moving of staff to the Hermitage facility will be a logistical change, our focus is on the delivery of outcomes than location."

AgForce's stand was in contrast to a vocal landholder (name withheld), who described the move as "another in a long and ever increasing line of bad, apparently arbitrary choices made by Biosecurity Queensland".

"It is about time the Minister pulled these bureaucrats into line," he said.

"If this decision goes ahead, people can rightly ask 'what happened to agriculture as one of the four pillars of the Queensland economy, as loudly broadcast at the election'.

"To my mind, these so-called efficiencies are an attempt to get around rightful community anger and to justify the unjustifiable."

Another producer said shifting the Biosecurity Queensland team out of the city was "beginning of the end" and another "kick in the guts for agriculture".

Meanwhile Yangan cattleman John Brandon described the move as "concerning".

"If people stop going to see stock inspectors, then don't follow regulations, it could have serious implications for our industry," he said.

Another Warwick cattlewoman (name also withheld) also felt the move would make stock inspectors and other services less accessible.

"They will be less accessible for us as the Hermitage is out of town, where all facilities are that producers would be doing business with when they visit town," she said.

"When we come to town we have limited time and would not have time to drive out to the Hermitage. I know it is the same with most cattle producers.

"This will result in a reduced workload for the officers, which will lead government to say these officers are not needed and we will lose another important service for agriculture."

But Mr McVeigh has sought to reassure locals his department is supportive of agriculture.

Reminding producers his government had already responded to local calls for additional DAFF support.

"Last October we appointed Clynton Spencer, who will take up the senior wild dog officer position at Applethorpe, which will service the Southern Downs region and work collectively with the other wild dog officers appointed by the LNP government across the state," he said.

Topics:  agripolitics, biosecurity queensland, hermitage, john mcveigh



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