A smaller-than-expected crowd turned out to hear policy direction on topics as widespread as the impacts of regional energy zones and a pledge by the ALP to put a statutory, independent Agriculture Commissioner in place should the party win government to ensure the industry's issues are taken seriously.
NSW Farmers' Armidale branch hosted Deputy Premier Paul Toole, Shadow Minister for Regional NSW Mick Veitch, Greens spokesperson Sue Higginson, and Shooters, Fishers, and Farmers spokesperson Mark Banasiak, to make their pitch on critical issues with its Regional Debate series.
Responding to a question from former NSW Farmers president and Guyra grazier, James Jackson, on the impact of renewable energy zones (REZ) on the potential extinction of eagles, Mr Veitch said the ALP, if it won government in the March election, would commit to an independent statutory commissioner to scrutinise a "whole range of land issues across the state".
"Part of this is to review some of the existing REZs," Mr Veitch said.
Mr Veitch said there was solid, bipartisan support for the REZ policy when it passed through parliament.
"But that doesn't mean it doesn't need reviewing," he said.
He conceded the government had introduced an agriculture commissioner in 2020. Still, he said there was more merit in the NSW Farmers' proposal for appointing an independent, statutory agriculture commissioner to look at a range of land use and planning conflicts.
"Wherever I go in regional NSW, someone will raise a land use conflict, whether its encroachment of town development, solar farms, (or) power lines. We need someone to work through it by engaging constructively with the community and listening to the community," Mr Veitch said.
Mr Banasiak said the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers also supported a legislated commissioner for one main reason; it gave the position the safety of tenure and security.
"They can do the job and do the job properly and not be worried that they might get the axe," he said.
Mr Toole said the Ag Commissioner's most recent report on conflicts over renewables was completed and should be released "very shortly".
Daryl Quinlivan was appointed NSW Agriculture Commissioner in August 2020, delivering on a 2019 election commitment. He has written two reports for the government, one published on October 10, 2021, titled "Improving the Prospects for Agriculture and Regional Australia in the NSW Planning System". The other was to be released on December 22 last year, but is still awaiting release.
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