Your readers might be interested in hearing of some of the more topical pronouncements made at last Sunday's Meet The Candidate forum at Bermagui.
Mr Constance again expressed unequivocal support for the rollover of Regional Forest Agreements despite vocal dismay from a largely partisan audience. He cited his support for forest workers, fair enough, but failed to acknowledge environmental, water catchment, species extinction or Carbon sequestration components of the equation, all of which are of great concern and mentioned in well-informed questions. Others present, self included, retorted that the Agreements had failed forest workers (note the imminent closure of the Blue Ridge hardwood mill in Eden, with a loss of 50+ jobs, and the steady decline in forest employment due to mechanisation of the industry). The $750,000 taxpayer subsidies to the loss-making hardwood division of Forests NSW were similarly ‘let through to the keeper’, though I stated, on behalf of the Greens, we would be happy to see those subsidies paid to workers for re-training, re-skilling, re-tooling and relocating into guaranteed employment in the plantation sector, which IS profitable.
When pressed on the Murrah Flora Reserve which was recently established by lease to NPWS for the protection of endangered faunal species in the south of the electorate, including the last known population of koalas on the Far South Coast, I stated that the Greens supported proper funding for management of the Reserve and its addition to Biamanga National Park so that it would be protected in perpetuity. Mr Constance twice passed up the opportunity to rule out allowing it to be logged after the 10 year lease with NPWS expired, saying he would see when the time came.
Finally, and of particular interest to Eurobodalla readers concerned about the Rural Lands Strategy, some new information delivered from the horse's mouth. Under questioning, again from yours truly (probably struck off the Christmas card list this year), Mr Constance stated that the RLEP sent by Council for signing off by Planning Minister Roberts some many months ago, with serious and as yet unresolved environmental issues raised by six government agencies, would now not be signed off before the State government descended into the blissful state of caretaker mode on March 1st. You heard it here, first.
Overall a splendid Meet The Candidates event. Well done Bermi. Can't wait for the next one.
NSW Greens candidate for the electorate of Bega. Editors Note: We have been advised that: Will Douglas said to Andrew Constance at the meeting I hope that you are not going to sign off the RLS before the caretaker period starts on Friday 1 March.
Andrew Constance said no, it would be signed off after the election. The Department of Planning were still working through the state agency submissions, particularly the one from the Rural Fire Service. Will Douglas and Leanne Atkinson gave a commitment that if elected the NSW Greens and NSW Labor would not sign off the current draft RLS but send it back to Council to properly address the concerns/objections of the six state government agencies.