The newly formed state government department tasked to advise and manage rural lands on behalf of landowners has been forced to apologise to members after letters were sent with wrong and missing information.
Local Land Services (LLS) blamed administration errors for the mistakes, which saw the election postal ballot package to members containing the wrong information for three candidates and the omission of a ‘holding number’, which assists in identifying and registering members hoping to enrol.
And the missing holding number appears to be a statewide flub, after the media spokesperson at head office in Tamworth confirmed it with The Echo.
But it remains unclear what, if any statewide response was made to the mistake.
Byron Shire rural landowner Alan Goldstein told The Echo that when he received the LLS election pack, it was ‘structured in a way to maximise the ways you could turn your vote into an informal one’, and that without careful examination, there are ‘numerous ways you could make a small mistake or omission.’
Goldstein says that more people will be disenfranchised with LSS, ‘because they will not bother to telephone to get their number.’
‘The office person said their office thought this process was being severely mishandled.’
Local Land Services (LLS) replaced the Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) and Catchment Management Authority (CMA) from the start of the year and was calling on landowners to enrol to vote on a new board.
MP controls board
And, like previous incarnations, Goldstein says, ‘LSS beginning to look as if it will continue in the tradition of not actually producing any real outcomes for the money it collects while performing its functions in an entirely unprofessional way.’
‘The problem with making such criticisms is that it only seems to lead to another review and name change with no real difference occurring.’
Further criticism of the LSS is that the NSW minister for primary industries controls 58 per cent of the vote, effectively negating any democratic accountability.
But a spokesperson for NSW minister for primary industries, Katrina Hodgkinson, told The Echo that, ‘it was appropriate’ that the minister controls the board.
‘The funding base is one-third from the ratepayer, while two-thirds of the funding comes from federal and state government.
‘It’s important the minister has a say on how the board runs.’
When asked if he was aware of the statewide mailout blunder, the spokesperson said he wasn’t.
So what will the Local Land Services do for rural landowners?
While specifics are vague, the new government body claims it will bring together ‘agricultural production advice, biosecurity, natural resource management and emergency management.’ As for accountability, LSS uses language on its website such as ‘administering, developing, implementing, delivery, communicating, consulting and engaging,’ while they are also ‘preparing State Strategic Plans and Local Strategic Plans.’
Education and training will also be part of their services, but comes without further explanation. For more visit www.lls.nsw.gov.au or the class action against it: llsclassaction.com.