NSW State Election heats up across rural electorates

Published: March 2019 | By: Michael Burt

Finally, rural affairs are at the top of the agenda. Local farmers tell us what must be addressed in six rural NSW seats.

Rural electorates could decide the NSW state election. 

The rural seats of Tweed, Monaro, Wagga Wagga, Orange, Upper Hunter and Lismore will be hotly contested, with agricultural issues at the forefront. Read about the history of each seat, while six local farmers tell us what should be addressed.

Upper Hunter electorate 

The Hunter Valley is a marginal seat with right-to-farm issues at the forefront. Source: Getty Images.

Covering the rural areas north-west of Newcastle centred around Singleton, Muswellbrook, Scone and Dungog, the Upper Hunter has voted in a National/Country Party candidate every election since the early 1930s. However, Labor enjoyed a significant swing in the 2015 election, which was won by Michael Johnsen of the Nationals, and the seat is now considered marginal. 

Pat Ryan, chair of NSW Farmers’ Merriwa branch says: 
“Drought has cut deep and hard in this region and resolving issues around preparedness, management and recovery will be on the agenda for whoever is in government. The need for a state-based right-to-farm policy is also important, particularly with recent threats to the livestock industry from animal activists and the Aussie Farms map. Other key issues include land use conflict – managing the necessary balance between extractive industries with food and fibre production and the local equine industry, and specific issues around effective land rehabilitation. Improving telecommunications is also vital for emergency services management.”

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Orange electorate 

Orange farmer Wayne Culverson on his property which has been in drought. Photo by: Pip Farquharson. 

The rural electorate in the state’s Central West covers nearly 17,000 square kilometres, and includes the Parkes, Forbes and Cabonne local government areas as well as Orange. The seat had been held by the National/Country Party since 1947, but in a by-election in 2016, Philip Donato of the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party beat the Nationals candidate by a margin of just 50 votes.

Frances Anderson, secretary of NSW Farmers’ Canowindra branch says: 
“Issues in our region include the protection of a farmers’ right to farm and the unauthorised collection and use of data and abuse of market share by large organisations. Increased funds are needed for the control of noxious weeds and pest animals, and access to more reliable internet, medical, postal and banking services need to be guaranteed. Road safety is an issue too, with road surfaces and widths that need to be fit for purpose, essential extra overtaking lanes created and traffic lights to replace 40km/hr school zones. Ongoing drought support such as relief on council and Local Land Services rates is also critical.”

Tweed electorate 

A sugar mill in the Tweed Valley, where agriculture is under threat from urbanisation. Source: Getty Images.

The state’s most northerly electorate at the top of the North Coast, the seat covers the eastern half of the Tweed Shire, including the high population area of Tweed Heads. The district has been held by Geoff Provest of the National Party since 2007. After a large swing to Labor in 2015, the seat is considered marginal, and it’s predicted that new arrivals in the area will be favouring non-Coalition candidates. 

Craig Huf, beef producer, Tweed Shire says: 
“The development of policy at a state level to more effectively control the implementation of planning policies by local government is urgently needed. Recent policies implemented at a local government level in our region are directly impacting farmers’ land, the use and future plans for the land and their farm business, and it is occurring without any real consultation with the farming community. Most farmers didn’t know their land was being impacted by local planning policies such as biodiversity strategies, and those that did had none of their key requests considered or adopted in recent policies that have been formulated.”

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Lismore electorate 

Coal seam gas is a hot topic in the Lismore electorate. Source: Getty Images.

The seat covers the Lismore, Kyogle and Tenterfield council areas and much of inland Tweed Shire. The district has been in the hands of the Nationals since 1988; current member Thomas George was elected in 1999 and will be retiring in 2019. He came close to being unseated by the Greens in the 2015 election, and with conservation issues a hot topic in the area, the Nationals can expect a strong challenge.

Ron Chittick, chair Of NSW Farmers’ Lismore/Alstonville branch says: 
“The Far North Coast region is a good example to demonstrate the need for a right-to-farm policy at a state level. We have a diverse and active agriculture sector that remains very important for the Lismore region, but it is under increasing pressure from urbanisation and as a lifestyle destination. Farmers need the ability to continue daily farming activities without the stress of complaints, so that we can support our diverse local food and fibre production. A right-to-farm policy that informs all new property purchasers adjoining rural land that they cannot complain about noise or routine farm activities would help address this issue.”
Monaro electorate 

One of the main concerns in the NSW snowfields area is the quality of roads. Source: Getty Images.

The electorate lies to the east and south of the Australian Capital Territory and includes Queanbeyan, Braidwood, Cooma and the NSW snowfields. It has changed hands between Labor and the Nationals numerous times since the 1970s, with current Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro elected in 2011. The seat is marginal, needing only a swing of 2.5% to be lost.

Sue Haslingden, Monaro livestock farmer and NSW Farmers’ member says: 
“Our biggest agricultural issues for the Monaro seat are weeds, roads and land use. We have uncontrolled African lovegrass spreading south at an alarming rate that is way beyond land manager control. Roads connect us and need to be in good condition. The Snowy Monaro’s road routes are a link to Victoria and beyond. Between Cann River and Cooma there are no overtaking lanes and many dirt access roads and bridges require significant upgrades. Developers are moving in and buying up swathes of agricultural land south of Canberra, making zoning change and land use complex issues for local government and this needs more input from relevant state ministers.”

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Wagga Wagga electorate 

An aerial view of Wagga Wagga, where the Nationals will be fielding their first candidate in 20 years. Source: Getty Images.

The south-western electorate is dominated by the Wagga Wagga metropolitan area, but also includes Lockhart and Tumut shires. After six decades as a safe Liberal seat, independent candidate Dr Joe McGirr won the by-election in 2018. Following the loss, the National Party announced it would field its first candidate for 20 years in the 2019 election, in a bid to unseat the new MP. 

Alan Brown, chair Of NSW Farmers’ Wagga Wagga branch says: 
“Wagga has been a city heavily reliant on agriculture, but is it also becoming an education and transport hub and has a rapidly growing aviation industry. Key issues for the community include health services, sustaining growth and supporting the education sector. For farmers, we need a state government that is responsive to the needs of agriculture while reducing the burden of red and green tape. Our NSW Farmers’ branch also needs an assurance that rail tracks will only be constructed after consultation with and agreement from adjoining landholders. Members are also concerned about the construction of solar farms on prime agricultural land close to the city.”

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