Fact find­ing tour through forests

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - FRONT PAGE - By ZOE MCMAUGH

De­niliquin sawmiller Ben Danck­ert says he is buoyed by NSW Premier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian’s af­fir­ma­tion that she ‘‘bases her de­ci­sion on facts’’.

Mr Danck­ert, a fourth gen­er­a­tion sawmill owner and chair of The Na­tion­als’ Rive­rina Red Gum branch, said it was the key point he took away from his meet­ing with the Premier this week.

Mrs Bere­jik­lian vis­ited the Mur­ray Val­ley Na­tional Park be­tween De­niliquin and Moama with foun­da­tion mem­bers of the Rive­rina Red Gum branch on Tues­day morn­ing.

Mr Danck­ert had is­sued the in­vite to Mrs Bere­jik­lian in Grif­fith in June this year. It fol­lowed the pass­ing of a mo­tion at the Na­tion­als’ state con­fer­ence to re­verse the Na­tional Parks con­ver­sion im­ple­mented in 2010 — to con­vert it back to the ‘‘Mur­ray Val­ley State For­est so that sus­tain­able and vi­able prac­tice can be prac­tised as it was un­til 2010’’.

Mrs Bere­jik­lian is the first Premier to visit De­niliquin since Bob Carr, in the lead up to the 2007 elec­tion.

She said that mile­stone was high­lighted with her dur­ing the visit, and she spec­i­fied she was here to learn the facts re­lat­ing to the tim­ber in­dus­try and other lo­cal is­sues.

Join­ing the Premier for re­turn trips to the for­est were NSW Min­is­ter for Lands and Forestry Paul Toole, former Mem­ber for Mur­ray Adrian Pic­coli and The Na­tion­als’ can­di­date for the seat of Mur­ray Austin Evans.

Mr Danck­ert said the Premier was pro­vided with doc­u­ments that out­line the facts she is look­ing for, which he is con­fi­dent she will use to de­bate the party mo­tion in cab­i­net.

‘‘We gave her a his­tory of the sawmills, and the re­cent his­tory of how the in­dus­try was closed down by the former La­bor Gov­ern­ment,’’ Mr Danck­ert said.

‘‘We gave her lit­er­a­ture and maps that op­posed in­for­ma­tion that was used to jus­tify the Na­tional Parks con­ver­sion.

‘‘We vis­ited com­part­ment 27 of the former Moira State For­est, which was last har­vested in 2006 and prob­a­bly only four other times in the 15 years be­fore that.

‘‘She seemed quite sur­prised to find the for­est in good health, and not clear felled as has been sug­gested.

‘‘We also took her past the thin­ning stacks, which we (com­mer­cial tim­ber busi­nesses) were pleased to be given ac­cess to when Paul Toole last vis­ited.

‘‘We high­lighted to the Premier that she would not spend any money to help us reach our goal — she would only need to get the leg­is­la­tion through that would al­low us back in the for­est.’’

As well as high­light­ing the eco­nomic cost of the forests be­ing closed to com­mer­cial har­vest — about $100 mil­lion a year — Mr Danck­ert said the uses for the tim­ber were de­tailed for the Premier and her ad­vi­sors.

‘‘We also got the chance to sit down and speak with the Premier di­rectly. She made no prom­ises, but she said she would take what she had learned to cab­i­net.

‘‘It was good to see her here and will­ing to find out more.’’

Mrs Bere­jik­lian said she in­tends to keep in con­stant con­tact with the in­dus­try work­ers she met on Tues­day, and to en­sure all de­ci­sions on the fu­ture of the for­est and its uses are based on fact.

‘‘I came here be­cause I like to deal with the facts. I have brief­ing pa­pers, but I pre­fer to speak to the peo­ple and it (vis­it­ing the for­est) was a pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘I asked ev­ery­one there to speak with me di­rectly. I ap­pre­ci­ate the frus­tra­tions (they have) but they do also recog­nise that this gov­ern­ment has done a lot since the con­ver­sion, in­clud­ing work on the stock­pil­ing of tim­ber. There was re­lief that I was here lis­ten­ing to them, and I have agreed to keep in con­tact and to con­sult.’’

The Na­tion­als’ Rive­rina Red Gum branch mem­ber Faye Ash­win, NSW Min­is­ter for Lands and Forestry Paul Toole, The Na­tion­als' can­di­date for Mur­ray Austin Evans, NSW Premier Gla­dys Bere­jik­lian, Rive­rina Red Gum branch mem­bers Ken O'Brien, Ben Danck­ert, Chris Crump, Todd Gel­letly and Paul Mad­den.

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