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Northern Rivers & Rural News

NSW Farmers releases 10-point Ag labour plan

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NSW Farmers releases 10-point Ag labour plan

NSW Farmers releases 10-point Ag labour plan

NSW Farmers is responding to the looming harvest worker shortage with a 10-point plan aimed at tackling the ongoing crisis.
International and state border restrictions have heavily limited the movement of workers to farms in time for upcoming grains, fruit and vegetable harvests, raising serious concerns that produce will be left to go to waste.

NSW Farmers’ President James Jackson said in the years prior to the onset of COVID-19 related border restrictions, up to half of the state’s harvest workforce was comprised of overseas workers.

“There have been longstanding challenges in attracting workers to agriculture, particularly domestic workers, however the pandemic has forced us to adapt very quickly to having fewer workers entering the state,” Mr Jackson said.
“We need short-term and long-term solutions. In the short-term, we need certainty and clarity for farm workers amid changing conditions of travel and border restrictions.”

“The Agricultural Workers’ Code is a great start, but we need to ensure the code is being interpreted consistently across states.”
“Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall has taken the step of inviting the Queensland, Victorian and Tasmanian Governments to establish an East Coast Agriculture Labour Task Force that will also include industry representatives. This is a good idea and let’s hope it goes ahead quickly and achieves improved mobility of workers across state borders.”

“We also need timely inflow of international seasonal workers through schemes including the Seasonal Worker Program and the Pacific Labour Scheme, as well as the impending Agriculture Workforce Visa.”

Mr Jackson said better coordination is needed to overcome the accommodation and transport challenges facing those interested in seasonal labour, especially in light of the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation.

“NSW Farmers is calling for an expansion of the ‘Help Harvest NSW’ program to include coordinators as the conduit between interested workers, farm businesses, government agencies and relevant stakeholders in the regions to streamline efforts for getting more people to farms.”
“Different regions face their own set of challenges, and we call on the government to provide grants to implement novel or localised initiatives to attract and/or facilitate the COVID safe movement and stay of seasonal workers.”

“An Agriculture Workforce Working Group comprising government agencies and industry stakeholders would greatly assist efforts to find timely and sustainable solutions to seasonal worker shortages in agriculture.”

Mr Jackson said seasonal work is highly suited to university or school students on break, and incentives such as subsidised transport, HECS relief or a bonus payment could attract more workers to agriculture.

“Attracting domestic workers to agriculture would also involve targeted communications campaigns highlighting the abundance of opportunities in agriculture, and NSW Farmers is calling for an industry wide coordinated campaign.”

 

Download the 10 Point Agricultural Workforce Plan PDF

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Northern Rivers & Rural News

It’s time to fix Inland Rail

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It's time to fix Inland Rail

It’s time to fix Inland Rail

NSW Farmers and the CWA of NSW have stressed the importance of getting the Inland Rail project back on track as they welcomed the appointment of Catherine King as federal Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government.
“Our communities want this project to go ahead, but the last few years have been frustrating,” NSW Farmers Inland Rail Taskforce chair Adrian Lyons said.

“We’ve tried to work with bureaucrats, previous ministers, and the ARTC themselves to put forward science and evidence-based concerns in relation to the execution of this project, and at almost every turn we have been ignored.

“This tin-eared approach has cost the project time, and it has caused the community stress and angst. This has to stop.”

Both organisations had been calling for an independent review of the Inland Rail project, in line with their respective policy positions voted on by members.

“The fact is, if this independent review had been done when it was first raised, we’d have track already laid in greenfield sites by now,” CWA of NSW president Joy Beames said.

The organisations agreed that a review of the ARTC’s business case and other matters would be welcome, but they also didn’t want to see more time and money wasted.
“A recent Senate inquiry into the ARTC’s management of the Inland Rail project produced a comprehensive set of findings and recommendations,” Ms Beame said.
“The previous government ignored many of them, and the lack of consultation has cost the project time.
“We urge the new government and Minister King to revisit this report as a matter of urgency and to take immediate steps to engage with us, and the wider community, about how these recommendations can be adopted.”

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Northern Rivers & Rural News

Trailblazing women join together to discuss breaking bias on International Women’s Day 2022

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Trailblazing women join together to discuss breaking bias on International Women’s Day 2022

Trailblazing women join together to discuss breaking bias on International Women’s Day 2022

Landcare Australia and the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment are bringing together a formidable group of women for a conversation about their challenges and triumphs.

In an online panel event on International Women’s Day, Tuesday 8 March, Regional Agriculture Landcare Facilitator Kerstie Lee will lead the discussion, focussing on this year’s theme – #BreakTheBias.

The panel includes Natalie Sommerville, a farmer, grazier and proud Torres Strait Islander woman from the clan Wagadagam of the Goemulgal people of Mabuyag Island. Currently living and working on Ngadjuri Country in South Australia’s Mid North, when Nat is not farming she is mentoring Aboriginal students.

Joining her is Sally Downie, who was selected as an ABC Heywire Trailblazer in 2019 for her work advocating for improved mental health services and support in drought-affected communities in Central West NSW. She is also a farmer, student and part-time drought policy officer.

Fiona Hill-Stein will add insights from her career advising on agricultural policy, drought and rural assistance, and natural resource management at the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

Rounding out the panel is Tess Grieves, Regional Landcare Coordinator at North Central Catchment Management Authority in Victoria. A driven environmental achiever in her community, she is nominated for the Steadfast Young Landcare Leadership Award at the 2022 National Landcare Awards.

“We are thrilled to present an engaging, thought-provoking discussion with Kerstie, Natalie, Sally, Fiona and Tess about their experiences and accomplishments in landcare,” said Dr Shane Norrish, CEO Landcare Australia.

“Launched over 35 years ago by two women – Joan Kirner and Heather Mitchell – landcare has led the way with women in leadership roles across Australia. This event celebrates the thousands of women in landcare and their contribution to local communities and natural resource management,” said Dr Norrish.

International Women’s Day 2022 aims to inspire everyone to celebrate women’s achievement, raise awareness against bias, and take action for equality.

Don’t miss Landcare Women Break the Bias, Tuesday 8 March, 2pm – 3.30pm AEDT.

Register to attend at landcareaustralia.org.au/webinars/iwd2022.

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Northern Rivers & Rural News

Farmers get their say on land use

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NSW Northern Rivers Breaking News

Farmers get their say on land use

The fight between farmers and developers could be a thing of the past thanks to a new mapping project that will shape future regional planning decisions.

With agriculture, urban development, renewable energy infrastructure and other land use interests competing for space in our increasingly busy regional areas, NSW Farmers is urging landholders to have their say on State Significant Agricultural Land mapping.

NSW Farmers Vice President Xavier Martin said it was an important process that would help protect farmers from conflicting land uses into the future.

“Farmers are being given a direct opportunity to have their say on the important issue of land use planning, and this could set the course for years to come as land use interests in regional areas grow,” Mr Martin said.

“Unfortunately, agricultural land can be viewed as a default zone when it comes to matters such as urban expansion, energy infrastructure and mining.

“There’s a finite amount of land suitable for agriculture and at the moment, we are losing it in a very fragmented way, but the state government’s mapping exercise is an opportunity to resolve that poor outcome.”

Mr Martin said the NSW Government’s understanding of the regional and state significance of agricultural areas would go a long way to minimising future conflict.

“The understanding of high value agricultural land must be multi-faceted, taking into consideration soil quality, yield, adaptability, proximity to export hubs and regional importance,” Mr Martin said.

“If the government is to identify and protect agricultural land on a tiered basis, then they need to understand what makes land strategically important – and farmers will be the repository of that knowledge.

“The goal of NSW Farmers advocacy in the land use space is to ensure agriculture is being considered in land use decisions. We need to start somewhere, and this mapping is the starting point.”

While the first iteration of the government’s mapping is not perfect, Mr Martin said consultation and refinement would help produce a planning tool that benefits landholders.

Consultation on the first State Significant Agricultural Land mapping is open until late January 2022 and the NSW Department of Primary Industries is welcoming input from farmers.

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