Armidale relocation just what the APVMA needs - NSW Nationals

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Armidale relocation just what the APVMA needs

The Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has been found by the independent National Auditors Office (ANAO) to be an organisation struggling with reform, management practices and efficiency, having already failed to implement the legislative reforms put in place in 2014.

Luckily, the move out of Canberra is the shot-in-the-arm the Authority needs to streamline its operations, establish robust risk management, reduce delays and regulatory burdens on the agricultural and veterinary chemicals industry, and in turn will bring much needed jobs to the Armidale community.

The APVMA is an organisation struggling to do the job it is statutorily required to perform. Up to 40 per cent of all applications are delayed past the required timelines for approval, with some taking as long as 10 months for reasons as simple as absent staff, or as concerning as losing documents containing confidential, commercial information.

The organisation's performance was so concerning that the ANAO noted the Authority was unable to provide its auditors with a complete set of documents “relating to the implementation of reform projects” nor maintain coherent case files for applications, with decision documentation often separated from applications. Those applying are bombarded with requests for further information due to unclear guidelines, further delaying chemical sale and usage.

Given some applications take as long as 25 months to be approved, the delays mean vital chemicals required by the agricultural sector can spend years bogged down in the APVMA administrative process. Of these applications, 70 per cent are for chemical duplication or license alteration – activities with little investigative burden on the Authority – and cost industries, contractors, farmers, vets and small business owners time and money.

Barnaby Joyce said the ANAO’s independent assessment of the APVMA’s performance confirmed that, after years of poor performance, the regulator could no longer continue under its business-as-usual model which significantly disrupts the $3 billion agricultural chemical sector and, in many cases, fails to meet basic industry requirements.

“This audit finds significant weaknesses in how the APVMA has implemented the government’s 2014 agvet chemical legislative reforms and says the business practices, systems, risk management and governance arrangements employed by the agency are just not good enough,” Barnaby said.

“I am really disappointed that the poor implementation of the reforms by the regulator has not delivered more efficient access to safe effective chemicals that industry urgently needs."

The relocation to Armidale presents the APVMA with a unique opportunity to reform their internal systems, supported by an additional $25.6 million in funding from the Commonwealth Government. In its current state, the ANAO found that the Authority is “not well placed to determine the extent to which reform objectives have been met”.

Its co-location with the University of New England (UNE) – Australia’s premier agricultural university – not only provides the APVMA with support during the relocation but to tap into the resources and experience of UNE staff who already work cooperatively with the Sheep Cooperative Research Centre, the Poultry Cooperative Research Centre and the Meat and Livestock Australia’s (MLA) Red Meat Innovation unit.

UNE boasts a world leading Smart Farm, a research and laboratory farm that is Australia’s only connected agri-ecosystem which can assess farm practices and impacts on a granular level. The relocation of the APVMA to Armidale also coincides with the introduction of two new courses by UNE’s School of Science and Technology, which will address acute shortages of graduates entering the regulatory science field – the modus operandi of the APVMA.

The opportunity available to the APVMA with the move are obvious to Barnaby Joyce.

“With new leadership and the APVMA’s relocation to Armidale, we now have a genuine opportunity to build an efficient and effective regulator of the future.”

The full ANAO report can be found here >>>

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