Push to expand industry but at what cost?
THE appointment of the State's first Agriculture Commissioner was announced in Coffs Harbour on Monday.
The new position was promised by The Nationals in the lead up to the NSW Government election in March.
Making good on that promise Coffs Harbour Nationals MP Gurmesh Singh welcomed Daryl Quinlivan during a visit to the region.
Also in town was the Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall who said the Commissioner would champion NSW farmers' rights.
"Daryl is incredibly well regarded in the industry, having served as the Secretary of the Commonwealth Agriculture Department and headed up the Productivity Commission," Mr Marshall said.
"His wealth of experience will be critical in driving growth in our state's $16 billion primary industries sector."
The Agriculture Commissioner will review the NSW Government's Right to Farm Policy and will have a particular focus on resolving land use conflict and identifying growth opportunities for industry.
"This Government has already introduced the toughest penalties in the nation for farm trespass and now we're focused on removing other impediments constraining primary production in NSW," Mr Marshall said.
But one Coffs Harbour City Councillor has warned that this is the wrong approach.
Cr Sally Townley says the intensive horticulture industry is still characterised by radical noncompliance.
"Every relevant government agency, whether it's the OEH investigating illegal clearing, EPA investigating pesticide use, NRAR investigating dams and water use, Council investigating illegal structures and pollution, every agency is continuing to report that the industry is simply not meeting its legal obligations," Dr Townley said.
"Many growers are still breaking the law, either wilfully or from ignorance."
She says that any expansion of this industry with this level of illegal behaviour being the standard, is wildly irresponsible.
Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh welcomed the announcement and said the Commissioner would be a strong voice for local farmers.
"Coffs Harbour is home to diverse agricultural operations and I look forward to working with the Commissioner to back our farmers and ensure we have a vibrant industry into the future," Mr Singh said.