Farmer councillor push

VFF urges farmers to consider standing for council

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VITAL ROLE: Former Horsham Rural City Council representative David Grimble says its vital farmers are elected to local authorities.

VITAL ROLE: Former Horsham Rural City Council representative David Grimble says its vital farmers are elected to local authorities.

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Farmer voice on councils now more important than ever, says VFF.

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A prominent Horsham Rural City councillor, who is stepping down this year, says having farmer representatives in local government is critical.

Former mayor Cr David Grimble, who runs a family prime lamb, Merino wool and cropping operation at Brimpaen backed calls by the Victorian Farmers Federation urging more primary producers to consider standing for local government.

"There are so many things that the farming sector look for, out of local government, and you need to be within the industry ( primary production) to fully understand that,"Cr Grimble said.

"It's actually critical to have farming representatives, in local government."

Cr Grimble was first elected to council in November 2008, serving two terms as mayor.

"I suppose the key things are around transport and roads, and we've also seen the very significant issue of rates."

But he said council also had carriage of industrial development, which was important for the rural sector.

Horsham had played a role in lobbying for better mobile phone coverage and the Rainbow radar.

"It is sometimes extremely difficult to get your colleagues and council administration to understand and empathise with what the farming community is saying," Cr Grimble said.

But he said, equally, it could also be hard to explain the needs of Horsham, as a regional city, to the farming community.

"I suppose the other interesting aspect is some of the work I have been involved in is more regionally based, not necessarily locally based."

That included transport planning and advocacy for rail projects, such as the Wimmera Intermodal Freight Terminal.

One of the biggest issues was the time commitment required.

"The dilemma we are in, whether you are involved in agriculture, business or any other industry, is to find the time to make adequate representation."

But he said many community members also put a great deal of time into such things as football clubs.

"The role of local government is just another extension of community service, in another way," he said.

VFF President David Jochinke said more farmers were needed on councils, to be the voice of agriculture.

"No one knows the issues and concerns of the Victorian farming community better than farmers themselves," Mr Jochinke said.

"We need more farmers on councils, so our message is heard on key issues including the need for fair rates, maintenance of local roads and keeping roadsides clear of weeds."

Farming communities needed to work together to seek out the best candidates and support them.

"Farmer's voices are more important than ever before," Mr Jochinke said.

"We have a real opportunity for agriculture to help lead the country on its economic rebuild and farming knowledge and expertise at a local government level will be vital during our recovery.

Moyne shire mayor Cr Daniel Meade said as agriculture was the local government's biggest economic driver, it was important to have farmer representatives on the council.

"It's important to be able to understand rural ratepayers and how they are situated, how their seasons are going," Cr Meade said.

"It's also important to understand how agriculture really does keep our small towns alive."

Cr Meade has a farm at Garvoc and dairy at Kolora.

He said he was lucky that his fellow councillors all understood how important agriculture was to Moyne.

As a result of having sympathetic councillors, Moyne had introduced grants for stock underpass schemes.

"That helps farmers improve the efficiency of access to their land, but also improves safety for ratepayers and residents, by keeping cattle off the road."

"We also support and sponsor the Great South West Dairy awards and we have a site at the Sungold Field Days every year.

"We see that as an opportunity to work with farmers, across the shire."

East Gippsland shire mayor Cr John White said he was the only farmer on the council.

"The farming sector provides more than half the shire's income and I've been someone who can advocate, from the farmer's point of view," Cr White said.

He has a mixed operation, running beef cattle and lambs, growing wool and cropping at Lindenow South and Fernbank, with his wife Leanne."At times it would be good to have a fellow farmer, on council," he said.

"We have a number of people I would have thought might be good potential candidates."

But he said being a councillor was very time consuming

"My being on council has left my wife with a heavy burden to look after, and doing the jobs I should have been doing."

The VFF reminded all interested potential candidates of the below key dates and requirements to ensure nominations are accepted:

. 17 September 2020- nominations open- candidates must complete the mandatory Local Government Candidate Training before submitting any application;

. 22 September 2020- nominations close 12 noon;

. 23 September 2020- lodgement of candidate statements, photos and questionnaires close 12 noon

Candidates can gain access to further information, including how to nominate, via the Victorian Electoral Commission's website https://www.vec.vic.gov.au/

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