Local Land Services board meets in Bega

THE South East region Local Land Services (LLS) board met in Bega this week as elected members joined government appointees on the board for the first time. 

Elected members Mac Wilson of Grabben Gullen, Stuart Burge of Numeralla and Barry Gay of Cowra joined appointed members Ken Garner, Chris Shannon, Ian Denny, general manager Gavin Whiteley and chairman David Mitchell for the two-day board meeting. 

South East LLS stretches from Eden to Wollongong and west to Yass and Goulburn, with elected and appointed members coming from all corners of this district. 

The only locally-based member is Mr Garner, senior manager farm services and milk supply at Bega Cheese. 

LLS was formed after the NSW Government amalgamated the Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPA), Catchment Management Authorities (CMA) and some agricultural advisory services from the Department of Primary Industries into what it calls “a new grassroots model for regional service delivery”.

Mr Mitchell said this first meeting of the full board was focused on corporate governance and strategic planning. 

However, with the dust still settling from the amalgamation of these very different bodies Mr Mitchell said making the organisation cohesive took up a lot of energy. 

“This is the most significant reform for 70 years with the interface of government and primary industries and we’ve see seven organisations come into one, three LPHA [Livestock Health and Pest Authority] and four CMA [Catchment Management Authorities]. 

"They all did things differently, culturally and operationally, and when you bring all that together there are cultural and operational clashes so you have to work to settle that down,” he said.

“The first thing you have to do is formulate direction, so that staff have direction.

“We need to develop a strategic plan which is what we started doing with the full board this week. 

“We need to build the foundations of the organisation and it’s about looking internally at the moment and making sure staff are settled.” 

Mr Mitchell said because of the diversity of agriculture with the new South East LLS district the organisation was planning to split the area into regions. 

“We are breaking the South East into eight local regions so the local service delivery can be designed around the local community. 

“Take the Bega Valley, the Monaro and the Southern Highlands, they are extremely different, they have different breeds of cattle and they have different priorities and different support mechanisms. 

“Regionally it will be about governance and broad strategic planning, risk management and reorganisation, but locally it’s about community priorities.” 

Mr Mitchell agreed with newly elected board member Stuart Burge it was important to build trust with ratepayers, particularly within the context of low voter enrolment for the recent election (BDN 21/3).

“We to have to build the trust and confidence of the customer and ratepayer base, and that will come if we deliver the right service and support to industry, community and individuals. 

“We also need to develop a strong communication strategy as I feel we have been weak in that area.”

Making sure the concerns particular to different regional areas are heard is a priority for the success of the new organisation Mr Mitchell said. 

“We have to put the local in to Local Land Services,” he said. 

“That’s the challenge for such a big region, for myself and for the board.

“As chair I am very, very determined to do that. 

“We need to be managed and governed regionally, but operationally we need to be local.”

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