We are currently facing an agricultural and environmental crisis in NSW. Landcare, our vital network of volunteers who work tirelessly to manage and restore Australia’s natural environment and to improve the sustainability of our agriculture, has had its funding and infrastructure support cut by successive governments and is now fighting for survival.
Federally, the Coalition have ripped nearly half a billion dollars out of Landcare and in NSW the move to embed Landcare in Local Land Services has seen volunteers mired in bureaucracy and increasingly ignored.
According to Landcare, many local organisations are losing staff and volunteers, with some facing closure as they are simply no longer sustainable.
That is why the Greens are calling for the establishment of a Landcare NSW Trust Fund, to provide Landcare with $7.5 million a year of ongoing funding. These funds will be used to employ about 40 volunteer coordinators who will be embedded in district Landcare networks and will provide the support and coordination needed to revitalise this grassroots, democratic movement.
It is disappointing that the Nationals have only committed half the funds Landcare needs and Labor hasn’t even released a Landcare policy before the election because this should not be a partisan issue.
We don’t expect volunteers in other iconic Australian institutions such as the RFS, SES and Surf Lifesaving to operate without funding, policy, leadership and support from Government. A small investment in Landcare now will leverage massive goodwill, volunteer participation and additional investment from communities.
So I am calling on all parties to work together after the NSW election and support a parliamentary inquiry which will investigate the funding and organisational structure needed to ensure the sustainability of Landcare.
We cannot let a vibrant 30 year old movement of 60,000 Landcarers in NSW, including 73 percent of farmers, slowly wither on our watch. Landcare is the very essence of localism and community spirit, bringing together people of all ages, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds to implement locally designed and locally managed programs to solve local problems.
Grassroots democracy and ecological sustainability are fundamental guiding principles of both the Greens and Landcare. The Greens are proud to support Landcare as an inclusive, democratic movement, driven from and for the community.
Jeremy Buckingham, Greens NSW MLC
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