What an eventful festive season. It began with fires and ended with torrential rain and even some local flooding.
Now we seem to be back to the heat again, still with warnings of potential dry times to come.
I hope everyone had a great Christmas and new year, now it’s time to get back to work for another year.
There are no sitting days in Parliament until February, but it has already been a busy start to the year.
Premier and Minister for Agriculture in Barwon
Last year ended with a visit by the Premier, Chris Minns, and the Minister for Agriculture, Regional NSW, and Western NSW, Tara Moriarty, to Barwon. In a short space of time we covered a fair bit of territory and a range of topics. These visits, brief as they are, give parliamentarians a better idea of what is going on in Barwon and help to inform decisions made in Macquarie Street. I am looking forward to more visits from ministers in the coming months.
Duck Creek fire
Dry conditions in the Pilliga led to a major fire in December. I went out to the area to check on the firefighting efforts and to see the damage caused by the fires. After a briefing on the ground I was able to hitch a ride with a NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service Fire Observer to get a view over the fire front. With the thick smoke, we had to wait for a window of visibility to get up in the air.
The number of vehicles and people out working on containing the blaze and supporting the fire crews was incredible. The fire went very close to properties, but landholders were well prepared for the fire. Well done to everyone involved, it shows what can be done when so many people work together.
For those who like all things mechanical (like me) one of the impressive things about the fire response was the Black Hawks with 3000 litre buckets. They can fill in around 30 seconds in quite shallow water. It’s a very quick turnaround. Two 2000 hp turbines allow a 10 tonne loaded weight.
While rain had improved things by the time I arrived, crews continued working on extinguishing hotspots until early in January. Around 138,000 hectares were burnt in the fire, but no lives were lost.
Those who sustained property damage as a result assistance is now available:
For information relating to financial assistance, replacing lost documents, location of your nearest recovery centre and more, please contact Service NSW on 13 77 88 or visit www.nsw.gov.au.
To apply for a concessional loan or primary producer grant, contact the NSW Rural Assistance Authority on 1800 678 593 or visit www.raa.nsw.gov.au.
Further information on disaster assistance can be found on the Australian government’s Disaster Assist website at www.disasterassist.gov.au.
In Walgett I accompanied the Premier to take a look at the work being done on the public swimming pool there. We were later joined by the minister to visit the Walgett PCYC where the National Danish Performance Team happened to be doing workshops with the kids, so we all jumped in and then went for a couple of hoops with the general manager.
This was a really fun way of showing the government just how important investment is in youth engagement out West and the positive impact it can have on the entire community.
Communities like Walgett need investment in pro social infrastructure over many years.
We then travelled to Brewarrina, which is an amazing town, not only because of the world heritage-listed fish traps, but also because of the achievements of the community and Brewarrina Shire Council engaging youth through employment pathway programs and activating the town through culture.
Introducing the Premier and the Minister to the locals was one of the highlights, so was the tour of the Brewarrina Aboriginal Cultural Museum. Brad Hardy from the museum, who is also custodian of the fish traps, is an informative and passionate advocate for local cultural history.
In Brewarrina, the Premier also met with country racing committee members from Louth Races, Come by Chance Picnic Races, Brewarrina Cup Races, Marthaguy Picnic Race Club, Enngonia Races, Collarenebri Jockey Club and Walgett Races.
Short-notice cancellations of country races are totally unacceptable. There needs to be a fair process where clubs are given ample opportunity to rectify any track issues so that races can go ahead. Short notice cancellations deny communities much-needed economic activity and a social outlet to help with people’s mental health and well-being.
Thanks to Muddy Waters Brewarrina for hosting the meeting. Over lunch, committee members voiced to the Premier the importance of country race meets to country communities and the impact of the recent spate of short-notice cancellations.
It was great to hear earlier this month that the government is sending 125 additional paramedics to regional areas. While Broken Hill is the only regional area that will benefit this time from the increase, hopefully this is just a start.
Paramedics are frontline health workers who are vital to better health outcomes in the regions, any increase is welcome but we still have a long way to go to fixing the problems with the medical system in country NSW.
This is something that I will continue to work on with the government, to ensure that the recommendations of the Regional Health Inquiry continue to be implemented as soon as possible.
Hunting in NSW State Forests
Populations of introduced species have boomed over the last couple of years, mainly because of the amount of rain that we’ve had. Control of exotic animals is best undertaken by experienced, properly licensed firearms owners.
That’s why it is good to hear news that 351 NSW State Forests have been redeclared for hunting. Notice of the redeclaration was published in the Government Gazette on Friday, January 19, to begin on February 1, 2024 to last until February 1, 2034. Only seven State Forests have not been redeclared.To order photos from this page click here