The New South Wales Labor Government has started 2009 in much the same way as it finished last year, with plans to further downscale services at the Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute, the Member for Ballina, Don Page, said.

“The Rees Government has announced the Department of Primary Industries will be closing the regional veterinary laboratory at Wollongbar and centralising services at the Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute (EMAI) near Sydney,” Mr Page said.

“The Director General of the NSW DPI is trying to justify the closure by saying that housing a large number of staff at EMAI near Sydney will create a more professionally-satisfying work life for staff and make more expertise, equipment and training available,” he said.

“It’s nothing but a move to save the Government money by centralising service provision.

“Indeed the internal memo of 13th January 2009 states ‘This approach will help us to meet our Government budget targets.’ (p.1)

“This is the result of years of inept financial mismanagement and once again regional areas, particularly the Northern Rivers, have to pay.

“Last year the Labor Government announced it was going to shut down the Alstonville Tropical Fruit Research facility and now the veterinary laboratory at Wollongbar will be closed as well.
“The veterinary laboratory has been operational at Wollongbar for 41 years, opening in 1968 to provide a diagnostic and research service for animal industries on the North Coast.

“Today staff provide services to veterinarians to help them minimise the impact of disease on livestock production, animal welfare and food quality.

“I am advised five specialist positions will go and regional veterinary services will be offered at EMAI near Sydney.

“These services will no longer be provided locally which will be a blow to the beef and dairy industries in particular.

“The Government admits its decisions to refocus the DPI’s science and research activities are based on trying to meet Government budget targets.

“We’ve never had such an anti-regional, Sydney-centric Government as this NSW Labor Government.”