Catch up with Colless
I held the position of Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources and Regional Planning since the March 2015 election until the January 2017 reshuffle, when new Nationals Leader and Deputy Premier John Barilaro asked me if I would be happy to continue in the Natural Resources portfolio and take on Western NSW.
As many of you would know, I spent many years as the Duty MLC for the old electorate of Murray-Darling, which at that time comprised almost 50 percent of NSW. It was a totally engrossing and a most enjoyable part of my parliamentary career, so when John asked me if I would like to take on the job of Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources and Western NSW, he did not need to ask twice!
The Natural Resources part of my portfolio gets me involved with a wide range of natural resource management issues, from chairing the Forest Industries Taskforce, assisting with the development and structure of the new Biodiversity Act and amendments to the Local Land Services Act (including the long-awaited repeal of the Native Vegetation Act) to dealing with day to day issues such as wild dog control across NSW.
The diversity of these issues means that I am in regular contact with Ministers, in particular, Primary Industries, Lands & Forests and Environment. Sometimes it is a challenge to try and negotiate a position where the best result for the community may result in a conflict of Ministerial portfolio responsibilities.
In terms of Western NSW, it is a privilege to be bringing the issues of the West, in a coordinated response, through to the NSW Cabinet. The major issues that have been raised with me are water (including the Broken Hill pipeline and the future management of Menindee Lakes post construction of the pipeline), the Far West Initiative following the Local Government amalgamation debate, problems with the explosion in kangaroo numbers over the last couple of years and of course the condition of some of the western roads.
My Western NSW responsibilities extend over the Central West & Orana and Far West Regions, covering parts of the electorates of Barwon, Murray, Cootamundra and Upper Hunter, and all of the electorates of Bathurst, Dubbo and Orange. The total area is 449,143 square kilometres!
I have also taken on the role of Duty MLC for Orange and hope to return the Orange Electorate to the Nationals at the March 2019 election. There is a huge amount of work to do in this space, and I have been spending most of my time in the Orange Electorate making sure those communities still have open access to Government ministers despite being held by a non-government member.
I have a great interest in agricultural education, and I was pleased to be part of the process that will result in Hurlstone Agricultural High School be transferred to the Western Sydney University Hawkesbury Campus in 2020. This campus is, of course, the original Hawkesbury Agricultural College, and the relocation of Hurlstone Agricultural High School onto this campus will establish it as a centre of excellence for agricultural education — unique in Australia if not the world. There is also a TAFE campus on the site now, so students will be able to gain their technical skills in addition to their secondary and tertiary education seamlessly, all on the same campus.
Within the agricultural education space, I serve on the CB Alexander Foundation Board of Tocal Agricultural College and it is truly wonderful to be part of the continuing technical training of young people, many of whom go onto much bigger and better careers as a result of the training they receive at both the Tocal and Murrumbidgee campuses.
Finally, I must pay a great tribute to my good friend, a wonderful leader, a formidable performer on the floor of Parliament, and the best Minister for Roads NSW has ever had or likely to have, Duncan Gay, as he has announced his retirement from the NSW Parliament.
Thank you Duncan for your friendship and leadership over the last 17 years. You leave this place with a great deal of respect from all sides of politics and I know there are many on the opposition benches that heaved a huge sigh of relief on your announcement after nearly 30 years of unblemished parliamentary performance. Congratulations and thank you!
Hon Rick Colless MLC
Parliamentary Secretary for Natural Resources and Western NSW
Duty MLC, Orange