They came, they saw, they spoke, but above all, they listened.
As Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis stood amongst the spotted gums on a Waterview Heights property, they didn’t see any koalas, but they did see a handful of residents, business representatives from the timber industry and employees from Local Land Services.
And they listened to what they had to say.
During his recent visit to the Clarence Valley, Mr Barilaro, who is also the Minister for Regional NSW and Minister for Forestry, said he was pleased to meet and speak to members of the local community regarding recent headlines and concerns in relation to the NSW Government’s Koala Habitat Protection State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) and changes to Private Native Forestry in NSW.
Recently, the NSW Government made changes to the policy and Local Land Services Act with the new agreement separating land management and Private Native Forestry from the SEPP so farmers could continue their operations without getting weighed down in green tape.
The informal gathering, which took place on October 27, was an opportunity for Mr Barilaro and Mr Gulaptis to hear first-hand accounts from local business and industry operators and assure them they would continue to fight to help support the regional communities they represent and belong to.
Mr Gulaptis, who spoke passionately about the “habit and environment we live in”, credited local industries and landholders for their professional, compassionate and responsible land management practices
“Your voices are rarely heard,” he said to the small crowd.
“We’re here to stick up for you and we’re here to talk with you about your concerns and we’ll take them back to Government to try and improve things for you.”
Some of the main concerns raised by the crowd included the lack of knowledge regarding the difference between forestry and clear felling, the difficulties representatives from the timber industry are experiencing with the NSW EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) when sourcing timber and the vital importance of keeping the timber industry in production, especially in regional areas.
As he listened intently and thanked the relevant parties for voicing their concerns, Mr Barilaro was equally as passionate as his parliamentary colleague as he made his position clear with regards to fighting for regional communities and local industries.
“There is pressure in relation to the supply of timber and there is also political pressure and community pressure about habitats and protecting the environment verses an industry like the timber industry and we want to get a positive message out there about how we find the balance between the two and how we manage forestry and manage the environment,” Mr Barilaro said.
“I’ll always say that landholders are the best conservationists anywhere.
“That’s why we can harvest rotation after rotation while you can actually talk about generations on the land and we have to get that message out there and do it in a positive way.
David Blair, bush supervisor for local business Greensill Brothers Ltd, said it was really good to see the Deputy Premier and Member for Clarence at the gathering.
He also credited them for taking the time to speak with locals about the important role the timber industry plays in regional communities in terms of employment and economic growth.
“There are a lot of people in the industry and 100 employees in our company,” he said.
“There is a big misconception with regards to how the timber industry operates and the process of land management is also very misunderstood.
“That was one of the points we raised today and I’m glad it wasn’t just heard, it was listened to.”