Since taking over as Minister for Lands and Forestry, and Minister for Racing, I’ve set about continuing the reforming work undertaken by my predecessors in these portfolios, Niall Blair and Troy Grant.
The Lands part of the portfolio refers to Crown Lands, and one of my key priorities has been to work with National MPs from across the state to address their key Crown Land concerns.
There are tens of thousands of parcels of Crown Land in NSW, and good management of these lands is important. These Crown lands are important locally for farmers and for recreation purposes, but it’s also important that Crown lands are managed in a responsible way, because of the potential impact upon neighbours such as farmers.
I’ve been continuing work of Niall Blair with the consolidation of the state’s Crown Lands Acts into one, which will make it easier for the Government and stakeholders alike.
One of the main ways the Government is helping the good management of local Crown lands is through the Public Reserve Management Fund which, following the consolidation of the legislation, will now be known as the Crown Reserves Support Fund.
Under this Fund, managers of Crown land – which can be councils or local committees of management – can apply for funding for improvement works. It’s particularly important for weed and pest control, or for upgrades to facilities so people can continue to enjoy these community assets.
Be assured, that whenever you raise a matter to do with Crown Land with your local Nationals MP, the matter is directed to my office, where I’ll have it investigated and then the appropriate action will be taken.
In the forestry space, one of my first acts as Minister was to announce the purchase of large holdings of private forest around Oberon and Tumbarumba. This was a purchase made possible by the hard work that’s been occurring at the hard-working Forestry Corporation, owned by the NSW State Government. I congratulate the good work done by my predecessor Niall Blair in setting up this purchase.
I’ve also been touring the state to visit forestry sites so I’m fully informed about this important industry – one that employs tens of thousands of people, much of it in regional NSW. The forestry industry is an important source of jobs and I want to ensure that this remains the case.
There’s a real threat out there with environmentalist groups and the Greens. They will never be satisfied until the forestry industry is entirely shut down. We all need to redouble our efforts and back the forestry industry who in turn back our communities.
The racing portfolio also includes liquor and gaming. Most importantly in the racing portfolio is the work to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of Morris Iemma’s panel report into the greyhound industry. This Government is totally committed to a sustainable greyhound racing industry. We are investing $41 million to ensure that happens, and this will include funding for many country greyhound racing tracks to ensure they’re up to standard.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting people in the greyhound industry from across the state and I can see their passion and their devotion to their dogs, and I want that to continue.
In the liquor space, we’re continuing to oversee the relaxation of liquor laws, which includes 11pm bottle shop closing, an extension of one hour, right across the state. This has been particularly welcomed in regional areas.
Pubs and clubs are central to our local communities, and I want to ensure that the NSW Government does what it can to keep our country pubs and clubs going. And clubs with the NSW Government are giving back to the community through Clubgrants, which is seeing millions of dollars invested into sports and recreation facilities, arts and culture, and crucially, emergency relief projects.
Once again, we have the Greens going around the state feeding data taken out of context to local media about poker machine use. I encourage you, every time you see your local paper writing a story that has the Greens attacking our clubs, write a letter to the editor and have your say.
Paul at Paddy's Hotel in Kelso with publican Liam O'Hara. Photos courtesy of Chris Lane.
Locally, I’ve been working hard to get better facilities for the Bathurst electorate. I’m particularly proud of the upgrade to the Great Western Highway at Kelso, which is not just good for Bathurst, it’s good for the entire Central West. I was delighted to join the Minister for Roads, Melinda Pavey, in March to open this $104 million project. It doubles the capacity of a 2.8 kilometre section of the highway, providing a safer and more efficient road for all.
It’s not just about big investment. Large or small, NSW Government support is making a real difference to the lives of regional communities, whether it be in health, education and infrastructure, or in the community.
I’m pleased to be supporting the wide range of community groups around the electorate, of which the Woodies – Central Tablelands Woodcraft – is just one. I was pleased to assist them getting a $10,000 grant from the NSW Government’s Community Building Partnership Program. It’s a great place for young and old in the community to come together and get training, advice and assistance with woodcraft. It’s a fantastic community-building initiative and one I’m very proud to be supporting.
I’m proud to keep fighting for the Bathurst electorate and making a difference to all its communities.