The end of yet another challenging year for all of us, and there's no doubt our new year wish will be for something closer to a 'normal' way of life. It's amazing how much the past two years has made us appreciate the simple things most of us took for granted pre-COVID, and how 'normal' has never been more exciting.
For the CWA of NSW, our day-to-day activities, and those of our branches, have certainly looked different during the pandemic, but our core business - assisting our communities and advocating on critical issues on their behalf - has continued unchanged. The past year has been another big one for lobbying on a raft of different issues, some of which we have already had success with, while others will remain a priority.
Coal mining and coal seam gas extraction have been important to our members for many years, and these issues again came to the fore in 2021. On the positive side, we welcomed the decision in April by the State Government to end the prospect of a large open-cut coal mine on the Liverpool Plains. Members spent almost 10 years rallying against the project due to concerns over the impact on significant agricultural land and water resources, so April's news came as a relief and a great source of satisfaction for all those who worked so hard on the campaign.
On a less positive note, in July we were disappointed with the release of the State Government's Future of Gas Statement and what we see as "inconsistency" around the selective extinguishment of dormant Petroleum Exploration Licences across the state. In May, at our annual State Conference, we called for an extinguishment of these 'zombie' PELs covering valuable agricultural land, on the basis that it's time for confidence to be restored to the people who call these regions home and rely on the land for their livelihoods. We will continue to lobby for what we see are critical changes to the rules around these licences.
At this year's state conference in Bega, a motion of urgency around increased safety for 'passive' level rail crossings in rural and regional areas - those crossings that are only marked by a stop or give way sign - was also endorsed. It came in the wake of two more deaths, which prompted one of the victim's partners to start a petition calling for more warning measures at country rail crossings. The CWA of NSW is right behind this push and we were gratified to see that last month, the petition was put to State Parliament, with NSW Deputy Premier Paul Toole pledging to take the matter further.
We also worked closely with NSW Farmers on increasing support for farmers overrun by mice early in the year, and welcomed a support package that was finally introduced for our affected primary producers.
We wish everyone a happy and healthy 2022. It promises to be an exciting year for the CWA of NSW as we celebrate our 100th birthday, with celebration events and activities throughout the year.
- STEPHANIE STANHOPE, CWA of NSW president
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