I’m looking forward to seeing how newly appointed NSW Agricultural Commissioner Daryl Quinlivan can deliver positive outcomes through this first-time role.
Daryl took up the challenge in August and recently outlined his key priorities and ambitions, which are worth noting, in a speech to the NSW Farm Writers Association.
Firstly, it was encouraging to hear Daryl say the Commissioner’s job isn’t just about serving farmers and will also deliver outcomes for rural communities.
If we get the growth opportunities right, not only will the agricultural sector be larger and richer for it, but so too will all of the rural communities that depend on agriculture and that’ll be a wonderful thing for the country, he said.
Secondly, Daryl has a great mix of experience which gives him real insight into the sector’s challenges and what governments can do to help, or hinder, farmers’ lives.
He worked at the Federal Agriculture Department for 10 years, including as Secretary from 2015 to 2020, and spent time at the Productivity Commission.
But importantly, he also runs Angus cattle and fine wool Merinos on his 320 hectare property at Boorowa, about 120kms north of Canberra.
By his own admission, Daryl loves farming and lives it too, keeping him in touch with the reality of many problems he’s trying to help solve, such as animal welfare, water use and market fluctuations.
“There’s a diversity amongst farmers which you would never understand reading the metropolitan press….in what they do, what they think and how they conduct their lives,” he told the event.
“There’s the same richness in rural communities amongst farmers as there is in any other community, including urban communities…they’re not a uniform species.”
Daryl’s role has no statutory authority or powers and he’ll be providing policy advice to help shape decisions made by the NSW Minister for Agriculture.
His first task is looking at the interaction between the NSW planning system and agriculture and how that system can be used more purposefully to advance agriculture.
A key plank of that work will be investigating how the planning system can be used to grow NSW agriculture and manage existing issues, such as the growing problem of land use conflicts.
The right to farm policy adopted by the NSW government at the last election, and how that’s now being implemented, is another key focus of his work.
Another encouraging comment during his talk was about the proactive nature of his role, which is a first for NSW and possibly Australian farming.
Daryl said state governments have tended to create these sorts of roles to deal with a crisis, such as to improve the flow of information in droughts or bushfire recovery.
“I’m not reacting to, or trying to create a more effective pathway out of a crisis – the job I’ve been given effectively is to help the NSW government to make better policy decisions, as they effect agriculture and farming communities,” he told the audience.
“In a sense it’s s bit more like a policy research body; although the minister may give me other jobs from time to time.
“Perhaps a better parallel might be the Australian Farm Institute, but working from inside government, talking to ministers and departments and influencing work that’s being done inside the government.
“If we can improve the climate for investment in agriculture in NSW that would be the single most important thing we could do for the future of agriculture and rural communities.”
By Robbie Sefton
Robbie Sefton has a dual investment in rural Australia as a farmer, producing wool, meat and grains, and as managing director of national marketing communications company Seftons.