The state’s agricultural industry faces the loss of immense knowledge and skills, with the State Government’s voluntary redundancy scheme set to hit the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) hard.
Minister for Agriculture and Food Alannah MacTiernan confirmed redundancies would be offered in an effort to ‘rebuild’ the department, which recorded only 965 FTE in 2016 compared to 1,581 FTE in 2007 when it was still the Department of Agriculture and Food WA.
WAFarmers President Tony York said the cuts were in direct contrast to the ever-increasing strength of the Western Australian agrifood sector, and recent labelling of the department as a ‘morgue’.
“It is no secret that despite the state’s agricultural industry being worth $8.6 billion in farm gate value and approximately $20 billion in post gate value through the supply chain, the department has been pared to the bone in recent years,” Mr York said.
“DPIRD is charged with supporting and driving the agrifood and regional development sectors, but it currently struggles to perform its key functions of policy, regulation and development.
“These impending DPIRD job cuts come at a time when morale is at its lowest, and one questions how long a single department can endure so many hits before becoming unsustainable.
“It is understood that some of those facing the voluntary redundancies involve people in senior positions who have dedicated so much of their careers to ensure the viability of the state’s agricultural sectors.
“We urgently need assurance from the government that even with the loss of some outstanding individuals from DPIRD, WA’s stringent biosecurity will ensure borders will remain secure, R&D will continue, and innovations will be capitalised upon to ensure industry growth and development.”
Mr York said the amalgamation of separate portfolios earlier in the year to create DPIRD could have been the catalyst for the cuts, with agriculture not featuring prominently on the newly-formed DPIRD Executive.
“With regional development now included as a focus of the department, it could be argued that the agriculture and food portfolio is not getting the attention it needs and deserves,” he said.