BARNABY Joyce says moving the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) from Canberra to Armidale in northern NSW forms part of the nation’s overall “moral responsibility” and plan to fight future global food insecurity.
Mr Joyce as the former Agriculture and Water Resources Minister played a pivotal role in forcing the APVMA’s controversial relocation to his New England electorate to create an agricultural centre of excellence at the University of New England.
He joined the new minister David Littleproud today to reveal the farm chemical regulator’s future location in Armidale, along with APVMA CEO Dr Chris Parker.
A purpose-built, two-storey office will be constructed by the Stirloch Group (Stirloch) which is a developer based in Queensland and Victoria with considerable experience in large government developments.
Dr Parker said the Authority would have 15 staff based at the interim office at 246 Beardy Street which would double by the end of March and about 150 staff based at the permanent Armidale office, once construction and fit-out was complete in mid-2019.
Mr Joyce told Fairfax Agricultural Media, that given the global food equation, the APVMA’s relocation – with today’s announcement representing another step on that journey – was “quite simple to understand”.
“People’s protein requirements, their carbohydrate requirements, determined by their metabolic rate, determines whether they live or die,” he said.
“The pursuit of feeding about 10 billion people by 2050 is everybody’s responsibility.
“Therefore this nation, to play its fundamental part of that as a large agricultural producer, must create agricultural centres of excellence that are at the top of their game in terms of getting the best outcome from a unit of land or from a unit of protein or a unit of carbohydrate.
“The movement of the APVMA to Armidale enhances the skills-sets that are currently seen in such things as the Department of Agriculture and the rural sciences at the University of New England.
“I hope people see this not just as the movement of a section of a government department - but an overall plan by our nation’s government to do the best thing by our moral responsibility to feed the world and be part of feeding the world; noting that we’ll only do a small section of that.”
Mr Joyce said the APVMA’s relocation to Armidale had been a “major fight” but by announcing the new capital infrastructure investment today, it showed the government was “deadly serious” about the policy move.
“David Littleproud with his passion and intellect is a great person to hand the baton over to so we can continue on with this major task,” Mr Joyce said of the decentralisation policy push.
“Obviously our belief in the National Party in decentralisation is also part and parcel of our desire to see centres of excellence in Armidale in the study of the chemical and veterinary requirements of plants and animals just like our vision for Orange is one of making sure we have the best financial tools at our disposal to stand behind agriculture.
“This is enhanced by the establishment of the Regional Investment Corporation – a multi-billion dollar bank at Orange.
“These two examples alone give people a clear example of the policy program that we have and the continuing desire that the program goes on and even as a backbencher I’m terribly proud to be part of that.”
Dr Parker said today’s announcement represented a “significant milestone” in the APVMA’s relocation from Canberra to Armidale.
He said the APVMA had made a long-term commitment to deliver ag-vet chemical regulation from regional Australia for the benefit of its clients and stakeholders.
“We have signed a 15-year lease with Stirloch, with possible extensions,” he said.
“Our move to Armidale now has real momentum.
“More staff will relocate from Canberra and more jobs will be advertised that I hope will attract local talent from Armidale and the surrounds to help us deliver robust regulation and top rate services to Australia’s ag-vet chemical industry.”
Mr Littleproud unveiled the site today, where the Stirloch Group will start building the 2000 square metre office building.
“The Centre of Agricultural Excellence in New England is a step closer with the University of New England just 10 kilometres down the road from the new site,” he said.
“The move will create a vibrant hub where research and government services can drive agricultural productivity and deliver economic benefits to regional Australia.
“The APVMA received 450 applications to fill 30 vacancies towards a total of 150 jobs when the authority is fully up and running in Armidale, which shows people want to get on board with the authority in its new home.
“Performance at the APVMA continues to improve and this relocation is the first step to building a world class regulator in Armidale that will deliver much-needed reforms to agvet chemical regulation.
“Architectural, project management and design companies are engaged and ready to go and construction is expected to commence mid-year.”
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