The role and the work our BTSO’s do covers quite a range of activities, some of which is not, at first glance, of great benefit to individual members. One of their roles is to attend the meetings for the North Coast , (Des as an independent farmer representative, but representing the interest of the NGINA), and Michael on the Greater Sydney and Hunter Local Land Services (LLS) weed committees. By attending these meetings they are able to represent and point out the affect that banning some so called “weed plants” that nurseries and retailers produce and sell, will have on the Nursery Industry Economy. As most people involved in these committees are from the local government sector, they tend to overlook the problems, economic and employment wise, that this would have on the primary industry, especially as a large number of the plants named are not really a threat to the environment. Actually some of these plants are a valuable source of food and shelter to birds who have adapted to exotic plants as food sources. While they are only represented on three LLS regions, they also keep an eye on the regional plans from the other eight LLS regions to make sure industry is represented and also kept in the loop as far as any developments in the Plans go that may impact on our industry.
Another area they are involved in is development and implementation of the Plant Sure Scheme. To demonstrate risk management and professionalism in the products bred, grown, offered, distributed and installed into the environment. Developing partnerships to produce a Scheme and Brand that will be recognised by the public, green industry and government, showing that the NGINA members are proactive and producers of “Green” products. Nurseries who adopt best management practices are actually True Greenies!
They also have input through Des to the Industry Reference Committee – Amenity Horticulture for the National Vocational Curriculum. This committee reviews the current vocational training packages and ensure that they are current and deliver what the industry requires from graduates to perform work activities. This has been an issue for some time, with significant skills loss, and it is hoped that changes can be made to ensure industry take up training opportunities and upskill their staff.
An important area is working with the Department of Primary Industry – becoming known to them so that we get advanced knowledge of biosecurity problems and are able to quickly get this information out to the members, and differentiating between members with a constitution and code of ethics, versus the non-engaged industry. This relationship is also important as Des and Michael both advocate industry positions on issues affecting growers and retailers.
But what about member benefits for the individual member? This is probably an area that we do not take on board enough. All areas of the NGINA membership - Allied Traders, Tubestock growers, Wholesale nurseries, Retail nurseries and Landscapers, can all call on Michael and Des for help in quite a variety of ways. They are there to help you with pest and disease management, water and nutritional requirements, what plants are really ‘weeds’ and best to steer away from, compliance issues, planning and ideas for business’ going through transition, how best to set up a nursery for efficiency and reviewing business processes.
Being advised on biosecurity preparedness and on-farm hygiene can also save you a lot of heartache and money. They are happy to call on you to help with these and other matters in a non-judgemental and confidential way. Help with education, training matters, and managing staff problems is also available. If Michael or Des are unable to help with some problems they will refer you to Erna in the NGINA office, or the Small Business Chamber to help with legal advice.
There is also help for Retailers. An audit can be done and advice given on what a customer might expect, you may if required then be referred to someone else with expertise in this area who specialises in marketing, merchandising, etc. You may need to call the NGINA office and organise a referral to one of these specialists to help with looking ahead as to what are the risks for your business, education of customers, the flow on effect to other businesses.Some members have taken advantage of help from Michael and Des with nutrition and soil problems and with assistance to lodge Development Applications for their nurseries. If you would like to contact them personally to understand the help they received you are welcome to phone them.