Ag chief moved as review stalls

Brad ThompsonThe West Australian
Former Department of Agriculture and Food chief Rob Delane
Camera IconFormer Department of Agriculture and Food chief Rob Delane Credit: The West Australian

Premier Colin Barnett has intervened in the running of the Department of Agriculture and Food WA ahead of the findings of a review into its operations.

Mr Barnett yanked Rob Delane out of the top job at DAFWA yesterday and parachuted him into a new role in the Department of State Development.

Mr Delane was hired by former agriculture minister Terry Redman six years ago and has presided over hundreds of job losses under the Barnett Government.

DAFWA has shed more than 450 jobs since 2009-10 with more to come as it makes an historic transition out of agricultural research and development to little more than a regulatory authority.

Agriculture Minister Ken Baston ordered a review of the department by a panel of experts last June after Mr Delane denied claims it was in crisis.

Late last year, Mr Baston revealed the promised review had stalled and would take another six months to complete. It is understood Mr Delane had wanted to chair the review.

Liberal backbencher Nigel Hallett said he would raise the lack of progress in Parliament next week.

Mr Delane said he was proud of the way DAFWA staff had performed during his time as director-general.

He said the new role within DSD would give him the opportunity to expand agricultural exports and attract foreign investment to WA.

Mr Delane will move to DSD on his existing salary package of more than $370,000 a year.

Botanic Parks and Garden Authority chief executive Mark Webb has been appointed acting DAFWA director-general until at least the end of this year.

Mr Webb is expected to take charge on March 14 when Mr Delane returns from a trade mission to China.

Mr Barnett said he had asked Mr Delane to set up the new unit within DSD to help expand agribusiness in WA.

“This unit will enhance the Government’s efforts in export market development and foreign investment attraction, as well as offering support to major agriculture and associated infrastructure projects,” he said.

Mr Barnett said the move had been discussed with Mr Baston, who is under pressure to hold his place on the frontbench, and Mr Redman.

It is unclear what resources will be allocated to the new unit and whether or not other public servants will be transferred from DAFWA to DSD.

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