SWEEP STAKES: Dubbo resident Karen Spellman sweeps up some of the millions of locusts to invade the town in December.
SWEEP STAKES: Dubbo resident Karen Spellman sweeps up some of the millions of locusts to invade the town in December.

Levy plagues farmers



RURAL New South Wales might be far removed from the Cold War politics of last century but the ongoing locust problem plaguing the State's farmers has created a schism between producers either side of the Great Dividing Range.

Last month the Minister for Primary Industries, Ian Macdonald, announced a restructure to the pest insect destruction fund levy.

The fund was established in 1934 and is replenished annually from Rural Lands Protection Board (RLPB) rate payments.

Its $3million balance was found to be insufficient to cover the cost of controlling the locust outbreaks, prompting a $14million loan from the Carr Government to assist farmers in the State's west.

Although locust reports stretched from the Queensland border in the north to the Riverina region in the south, the destructive plagues have been contained in the west in hotspots like Dubbo, Coonabarabran and Condobolin.

However, consultation between the State Council of Rural Lands Protection Boards, the NSW Farmers' Association and the Carr Government determined the cost should be shared by all rural ratepayers.

When the RLPB's annual rate notices go out this month, coastal landholders will be asked for a larger contribution to combat the locust problem.

Each RLPB notice will consist of a base-rate $13 fee plus 1.25 cents per stock unit for ratepayers in coastal areas.

It is estimated the RLBP's Grafton catchment area will collect around $95,000 from the restructured levy.

Speaking at the Grafton Regional Livestock Selling Centre yesterday, Nana Glen grazier Carol Ryland appreciated the problems facing farmers in the West, however, she said coastal farmers were already paying to fight problems of their own without government support.



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