Tim­ber task

Evans to push for log­ging in maiden speech

Deniliquin Pastoral Times - - NEWS - By ZOE MC­MAUGH

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.

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