NEW vegetation management staff from the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy were moved to a dedicated ‘Veg Hub’ in Charleville, six months before the new laws were legislated.
According to DNRME, a call centre responding to vegetation management enquiries was decentralised from Brisbane to Charleville in December last year, with more staff brought to the rural area.
The ‘Veg Hub’ has since received more than 180 calls a week, but DNRME deny the resource increase was politically driven.
“This service scales up and down with support from staff in other regional centres depending on demand,” a DNRME spokesperson said.
“The decision to increase resources, and base a team in a regional area, is based on our desire to provide timely, specialist advice to landholders – not on what may or may not go to Parliament.”
But, graziers believe the move was an early indication the laws were destined to pass. A parliamentary committee remained staunch in recommending Labor’s laws, despite receiving more than 13,000 submissions and attending eight public hearings with almost 130 witnesses.
Based on anecdotal costing rates from agribusiness specialist Lisa Lonsdale, hearing attendees sacrificed $590/pp* if they travelled 300km and spent three hours researching.
Amby producer Peter Joliffe and his wife, Sue, spent hours collating their submission and speech.
“When they said there was no evidence given; they either weren’t listening at all or the decision was already made,” he said.
Charleville grazier Michael Davis believed the consultation period was a waste of all taxpayer’s money.
“That money could have been spent on drought relief, rather than running around the state doing things that they weren’t going to believe or take on board,” he said.
AgForce general president Grant Maudsley said farmers were understandably angry their views were ignored.
“The Premier and agriculture minister both visited regional Queensland at the start of the year promising farmers could have their say on new vegetation management laws, but clearly never had any intention of actually listening to and acting on farmers’ concerns,” he said.
While he understood many would question the timing of a ‘Veg Hub’, Mr Maudsley welcomed the move of staff to western Queensland rather than Brisbane.
- Based on $350 daily contract muster, 30c/km travel and $50/hr research
The story Veg staff moved into position months before hearings first appeared on Queensland Country Life.