Lifting the load for Northern NSW farmers  

Published: December 2018 | By: Anna Forsyth

Regional Services Manager Michael Collins is helping raise the agenda for local issues like inland rail, quad bike safety and the Great Artesian Basin.

He may be just a few months into his role as NSW Farmers’ Northern regional services manager (RSM), but much of the job is second nature to Michael Collins. He’s been listening to the stories of locals since he was a youngster, doing the morning milk run with his father. 

Delivering to up to 500 homes and businesses around Lismore on the NSW North Coast gave him a feel for life in rural communities and the chance to hear about issues first hand. “I would deliver to shopkeepers at 4am and chat to them as they were opening,” Michael says. “When Coles and Woolworths landed, it was hard on local businesses.” 

In a different time, he says, he may have taken over the butcher shop started by his grandfather in the early 1970s. “He sold it when I was in about Year 5. I would be in charge of carting the sawdust for the floor,” says Michael, who went on to work in education.

*READ MORE on generational family businesses: 
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Now revelling in his role as an RSM, he enjoys the camaraderie of bringing the community together for gatherings and events, and says people call him up just to “share the burden”. 

NSW farmers had the opportunity to raise their concerns with politicians and the ARTC at the Inland Rail meeting in Gilgandra in November, that drew 200 people. 

“I love being able to point people in the right direction of services and government subsidies that can help them.”

“We talk about everything and I love to find the answers for them. “When we have our field days and other events, for some it’s the first time they have been off their farms for weeks. That community is really important. In this part of the state we’ve had the worst drought in recent memory, it’s generational.” 
Other issues engaging Michael’s local members include quad bike safety and subsidies, the Inland Rail and the work being done on managing the Great Artesian Basin.  

Covering a region stretching from Merriwa and Scone up to the Queensland border, and taking in Walgett to the west and Armidale and Tamworth to the east, he travels up to 2,000km a week. A recent highlight was a visit to Moree for the quarterly meeting of RSMs, which covered a lot of ground, from freight issues to native vegetation, and included a visit to the local hot springs. 

Michael says being an RSM offers a great work-life balance, allowing him time to concentrate on his garden in Warialda, about 80km east of Moree, where he lives with his partner and four dachshunds. There are chickens and a big vegetable garden chock-full of lettuce, beans, corn, spinach and radishes, along with a smattering of roses.

In his downtime, Michael can be found fishing or camping, especially at the picturesque Dumaresq Dam off the New England Highway. He catches the occasional cod and yellowbelly and hopes one day he will hook that elusive big fish. “I love the bush,” he says.
“When we need to get away, we just get in the car and drive.”

Learn more about the people behind NSW Farmers: 
- Meet the grains and horticulture policy makers 
- Growing the future for NSW Farmers
Get in contact with Michael Collins
0439 958 163 / 

For all general inquiries, contact the Member Service Centre on 1300 794 000. 

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