PROMINENT agriculture and climate campaigner Josh Gilbert has resigned as NSW Young Farmers chairman after alleging his philosophical disagreement on land clearing reform earned him threats of personal attacks.
Mr Gilbert, 24, Nabiac near Foster, announced on social media on Tuesday he would stand down immediately from the position he has held for three years, citing a long-running philosophical rift over the NSW Farmers’ lobbying for an overhaul of the NSW Biodiversity Act, which manages native vegetation clearing.
Mr Gilbert alleged he had also been contacted by a high-ranking non-staff member from NSW Farmers who warned that opposing the reforms would result in personal attacks.
The association has campaigned for many years on the issue and is currently negotiating with state government to develop a policy to repeal the current laws.
But Mr Gilbert – who represented Australia at the COP21 talks at Paris in November – said he felt the legislation would have negative ramifications for agriculture.
“Unfortunately, due to some policy that is about to be released and the way in which this has been handled, it has become further apparent that my personal views no longer align with the broader association,” Mr Gilbert’s statement said.
“This has been further influenced by a member stating they and others would personally attack me if I was to speak out against this issue and voice my concerns.”
NSW Farmers president Derek Schoen said he and other members of association’s policy team attempted to meet with Mr Gilbert on Tuesday to clear the air over the native vegetation policy, but Mr Gilbert declined.
Mr Schoen said he was aware Mr Gilbert had been contacted by someone within NSW Farmers but did not know what was said.
“(Josh) did mention something - a member had contacted him - but I can’t deny or confirm what was said,” Mr Schoen said.
“If Josh feels aggrieved - he can lodge a claim against that member. The ball is really in Josh’s court.”
Mr Schoen said he was sad to see Mr Gilbert step down.
“It’s disappointing to see Josh resign from the position - he’s done a lot of hard work,” Mr Schoen said.
“But if his ‘philosophy is diametrically opposed to the association’s then perhaps this is the best way forward for him.”
Mr Gilbert helped drive a motion to rewrite NSW Farmers’ climate change policy at the organisation’s July AGM, which received worldwide publicity.
The NSW Young Farmers AGM will be held in Dubbo next month.
Mr Gilbert said he had the backing of his committee and was confident he would have been re-elected.
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