The forestry industry in our region might have a sustainable future after all.
The first positive signs for the industry in nearly a decade were evident last week with the announcement by NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro that his party would re-introduce a Bill into state parliament to re-open the Murray Valley National Park to commercial logging.
It represented a major turning point in an issue that has caused considerable angst in this region since 2010. That is when the then NSW Premier, Nathan Rees, agreed to shut down the region’s forestry industry to seal a preference deal with the Greens.
If the decision had been made on scientific grounds it may have been more palatable, but when a local industry and the jobs it generated were sacrificed for political gain, it was a tough pill to swallow.
Local industry leaders were so disillusioned with the support they subsequently received from The Nationals and their Coalition partners they established their own Red Gum branch of The Nationals to highlight the injustice.
While former Member for Murray Austin Evans supported the forestry industry and tried valiantly to make head roads on its behalf, he was constantly hamstrung because there was no backing from the Liberal Party, in particular the city-based Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton.
Meanwhile, his leader John Barilaro appeared to sit on the fence, with his focus firmly on ensuring a public perception of unity between himself and Premier Gladys Berijiklian. He no doubt he also did not want a divisive issue that would cost the Coalition vital city-based environmental votes in a close election battle.
However, with those issues in the past it is now a new ball game with different players. Due to a combination of inaction on forestry and other major issues, coupled with what we believe was an appalling election campaign, The Nationals were thumped by the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party in the seat of Murray at the state poll.
They now have a lot of ground to make up if they are going to claim the seat back in 2023.
We applaud Mr Barilaro for taking a new, tougher stance on returning sustainable forestry to the Murray Valley National Park. It will not be an easy fight to win, but if the Premier is true to her word of leading for all of NSW and supporting economic development he will get Liberal Party backing for his Bill.
When this occurs it will provide a significant boost not only to this region’s economy, but also to levels of confidence that politicians are listening and prepared to act on our concerns.
We look forward to The Nationals winning the battle in the forests, as well as taking a strong stance on water, health and other pressing issues so they can win back our trust over the next four years.