DAFWA falls short on performance targets

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian

WA's Department of Agriculture and Food has defended its failure to meet key performance indicators amid budget and staff cuts.

DAFWA's annual report highlighted concerns among farmers and other stakeholders about the department's ability to deliver a profitable, innovative and sustainable agrifood sector for WA.

Less than a third of about 400 stakeholders surveyed said DAFWA had a positive influence on profitability (29.3 per cent), fostered innovation (30 per cent) or positively influenced sustainability (32 per cent).

The results fell just short of targets set by DAFWA under KPIs introduced in 2011-12 as part of a challenging new management framework.

Under the new framework, 300 farmers, 61 processors, mark- eters and exporters and 34 agricultural consultants were asked to rate DAFWA's performance.

DAFWA director-general Rob Delane said he was not shying away from the daunting task of allowing stakeholders to judge the stripped-down department at a time of change for the industry on the back of some poor seasons, rising input costs and restrictions on the live export trade.

"Are the results as good as we would like? No, we would love a better result but the critical thing for me is that we are focusing on strategies to change it," he said.

DAFWA reduced expenditure 12 per cent to $199 million in the year to June 30 by cutting staff, supplies, services, grants and subsidies. The cuts still fell $9.4 million short of covering another drop in State Government funding and reduced income from non-government sources and Royalties for Regions.

DAFWA's resources have been slashed under the Barnett Government with revenue down from $300 million in 2007-08 to $190 million in 2012-13, including a 13 per cent fall in the past year.

It has shed 600 jobs in just over a decade to 1162 full-time equivalent staff with another 250 jobs set to go over the next four years.

"We are trying to do the best job we can with the resources provided to us and that is not enough for a lot of our clients," Mr Delane said. "We understand that and every time we go through having less funds or higher costs we refocus on what we think are higher priorities."

He said the highest priority would be implementing the Government's priorities under Seizing the Opportunity, the Nationals WA agricultural policy. The $300 million Royalties for Regions-funded policy will be rolled out over the next five years but only $5 million is allocated in the budget for 2013-14.

The policy includes big spending on research and development, industry support centres and water for food projects.

Nationals WA leader Brendon Grylls will have the key say in how the money is spent, with DAFWA expected to drive projects worth up to $200 million.

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