Rangelands event fails pastoralists
■ Warrawagine Station owner Robin Mills has expressed his disappointment a conference focused on initiatives to develop the State’s rangelands failed to invite most pastoralists in the Pilbara.
The 2016 Sustainable Economic Development in WA Conference was a rare opportunity for pastoral industry leaders to meet with Government representatives, including Lands Minister Terry Redman and Water Minister Mia Davies.
Mr Mills, who spoke about development opportunities for pastoralists, said out of the 230 people at the conference fewer than 30 pastoralists were in attendance because of an administrative error.
“It’s pretty disappointing there were only 30 of us there. The room was full of bureaucrats and politicians, ” he said. “It was also very disappointing that neither Minister Redman nor Davies stayed after the presentations to talk with pastoralists … they really didn’t seem that interested in what we had to say.”
Department of Lands director-general Colin Slattery said a follow-up event would be held to ensure pastoralists were afforded the opportunity to discuss the future of the rangelands.
“An administrative error meant a significant number of pastoralists either did not receive invitations or were not able to access online-based promotions for the Perth CBD event, ” he said.
“The Department of Lands will release details on this second event as soon as they are known.”
Mr Mills said a second conference would be a huge inconvenience only weeks away from the start of the mustering season.
He added the initial administration error had confirmed for many pastoralists how out of touch government departments were with the pastoral industry.
“Minister Redman said at the conference he would be bringing in new regulations so pastoralists will be able to get better rangeland tenures to diversify, ” he said.
“But at end of the day, for us to do anything different than raising stock on pastoral leases we have to go through series of departments including lands, water and environment.
“To put down a bore for our irrigation project I had to apply for a diversification permit from lands, apply to the Department of Environment for permission to clear and had to apply to the Department of Water to use the bore.
“Six months later and I still haven’t had my permits approved.”
Mr Mills said he feared the current level of bureaucracy would cause pastoralists to walk away from diversification permits.
He added that Mr Redman’s decision to scratch the Pastoral Lands Board was a significant concern for many in the industry. But Mr Redman defended the move at the conference and said PLB would be replaced with a rangelands advisory board made up of all stakeholders.
Robin Mills at his Pilbara cattle station, Warrawagine.