The Department of Primary Industries’ offi ce, housed in the old Ararat Shire Hall, will close.ARARAT – Ararat Rural City Council has hit out at the State Government following last week’s announcement that the Ararat office of the Department of Primary Industries will close.

The closure will see the loss of 12 jobs and relocation of staff to either the Hamilton or Horsham offices.

Council will request a meeting with the Premier Ted Baillieu to discuss the closure and the impact it will have on the wider Ararat community.

Cr Ian Wilson said Ararat must retain its services.

“This community cannot afford to lose 11 full time positions especially in the current economic climate,” he said.

“I was rather disappointed to read on the front page of today’s (Tuesday’s Ararat Advertiser) paper that the VFF had formed an opinion in relation to the DPI closure. I urge the VFF and in particular the local members, to lobby strongly on behalf of their members for retention of the fantastic services the DPI provides in Ararat.

“I don’t believe their members would say it was adequate for farmers in Elmhurst or Moyston to have to travel to Hamilton for advice, when we’ve got that advice provided here in the regional office in Ararat. I urge the VFF not to take this decision laying down.”

The Ararat/Tatyoon branch of the VFF said in Tuesday’s edition of The Ararat Advertiser that while disappointed, they believed the decision was inevitable given the reduction in staff over the past few years.

“I urge the people who are responsible, and do have some control in this matter, being the state government, to work with all concerned, all those people responsible, to get a resolution for the benefit of this community,” he said.

Cr Gwenda Allgood reminded the gallery of the economic downturn of the 1990s when many government institutions closed their doors, causing economic hardship in the town.

“In 1994 these sorts of things happened, we all lived through that,” she said.

“Basically it isn’t about supporting country Victoria any more it’s about drawing everything back down to Melbourne.

“They’re taking these offices that keep us alive and flowing, and taking them out of these areas and I can’t believe it.”

Cr Allgood was also disappointed with the response by the VFF.

“I don’t very often disagree with the VFF I must admit, but I was extremely disappointed to get up this morning and read that. We have bent over backwards with the VFF. We’ve looked at their rates, we’ve tried everything as a council to support the farmers, but now I think it’s up to the farmers, instead of saying you can go to the internet or someone can drive out to see them, it’s not about that, it’s about visiting the farmer,” she said.

Cr Allgood said a recent visit to Broken Hill brought home the difficulties farmers face.

“You look at these vast tracts of areas where you actually plant this seed, hope for the rain to come so as they get a good crop and when they don’t, we have suicides. So it’s a really serious situation,” she said.

“The DPI are the sort of people that go out and visit the farmer, they know the farmer, the farmer can go there for help, it might only be someone to talk to, but you have them in this area.”

In relation to staff, Cr Allgood said not only do these people live and work in the community they’re part of the community.

Cr John Cunningham also spoke about the hardships of the 1990s.

“We went through periods in the 90s where we lost a whole range of people from high/medium level senior employees, similar to the types of people moving out of the DPI offices into other places and we lose skills and knowledge and abilities and those skills, knowledge and abilities are lost to our community,” he said.

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