Evans to push for logging in maiden speech
NSW Member for Murray-elect Austin Evans plans to use his first weeks in NSW Parliament lobbying for the Murray Valley National Park to be reopened for sustainable commercial logging.
Mr Evans, who jumped on the band wagon to have the national park returned to a productive state forest during his byelection campaign, said the push for reinstatement of a state forest will be part of his maiden speech to Parliament.
He will be officially sworn in on November 14.
‘‘This topic will particularly be part of my approach for my opening speech,’’ Mr Evans said.
‘‘There’s three weeks set aside for sittings, and that is my opportunity to sit down and suss out who the roadblocks will be.
‘‘I already have people working on drafting the Private Member’s Bill (to reinstate the Murray Valley National Park as a state forest) and I am also still seeking input on that.’’
After two days of meetings with local organisations, groups and individuals in Deniliquin on Tuesday and Wednesday last week, Mr Evans set aside Thursday to delve deeper into the concerns relating to the Murray Valley National Park.
He said it was designed to ensure he was armed with all the right information before going to Parliament.
‘‘I have to start lobbying in Sydney now, and so I need to have all the facts,’’ Mr Evans said.
‘‘I have already had some preliminary discussions with other Parliamentary members and at this stage I am not seeing much opposition from my fellow The Nationals. But it is not them I have to convince.
‘‘I have had a brief meet and greet with (Liberal and Minister for Environment) Gabrielle Upton, but I need to sit down with her and speak about timber specifically.
‘‘I need to target the Liberals and convince them that the National Parks conversion was a crazy idea in the first place.’’
The NSW Labor government struck a deal with the Greens to reclassify the state forest to a national park in 2010, effectively shutting down the timber industry.
The cost of closing working forests in favour of National Parks is valued at about $9000 per hectare to the local economy, according to Mathoura sawmiller Chris Crump.
Concerned the issue had dropped from the Coalition Government’s radar, a Riverina Red Gum branch of the The Nationals was formed in Deniliquin last year.
Headed by Deniliquin Gulpa Sawmill owner Ben Danckert, it moved a motion to convert the National Park back to the ‘‘Murray Valley State Forest so that sustainable and viable prac- tice can be practised as it was until 2010’’.
It then became The Nationals policy after being unanimously supported at the party’s conference.
Efforts to date have already seen The Nationals leader John Barilaro promise commercial sawmillers access to the 15,000 tonnes of wood harvested from the forest as part of thinning trials, but Mr Danckert said the industry needs more.
Mr Danckert said Mr Evans appears to have ‘‘fire in his belly’’ to push for more.
‘‘The area needs the timber industry running again, and from that we’ll get jobs and a boost in the economy,’’ Mr Danckert said.
‘‘It’s certainly going to be a challenge for Austin to get the Liberals on side, but we can tell he is up for that challenge.
‘‘One of the biggest hurdles is dispelling the myths that are out there — misinformation like the forests are ancient and must be protected and the incorrect figures being published regarding the compensation provided following the National Parks conversions.
‘‘Austin came back to speak with us to make sure he has a thorough understanding of the issues and the facts, and to ensure he can answer any question asked of him with the right information.
‘‘Austin could be our voice to get the truth out there.’’
NSW Member for Murray elect Austin Evans (centre) in the Murray Valley National Park with Ben Danckert (left) and Chris Crump on Thursday.