Confusion in the National Party over the future desired status of the Murray Valley National Park appears to be growing as NSW acting premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro denied on ABC radio on Tuesday morning that he wants to change it from national park to state forest.
Mr Barilaro promised National Party delegates in June that he would reintroduce a Bill to revoke the reservation of the Murray Valley National Park. The bill would de-gazette the national park returning it to the status of state forest therefore allowing it to be logged. However, in Tuesday’s interview on the ABC Mr Barilaro said ‘The proposal isn’t to de-gazette the National Park. It’s about expanding a thinning program that already exists within the Park, conducted by OEH.’
This contradicts his previous statement in The Guardian stating that ‘If the only way to return this industry to its former owners and employees is to carve out that part of the national park, then that is what we should do.’
The National Parks and Wildlife Legislation Amendment (Riverina) Bill 2018 originally introduced by former Nationals MP Austin Evans prior to the March state election had lapsed. That Bill specifically de-gazetted the entirety of the Murray Valley National Park, and reclassified the area as a state forest in order to allow for commercial logging.
Shadow Minister for Environment, Kate Washington said: “Last month, the Acting Premier made a clear commitment to his party membership to reintroduce a Bill to Parliament to allow for commercial logging. The Bill he was referring to would have de-gazetted the entirety of the Murray Valley National Park, there’s no doubt about that. If he was referring to ‘reintroducing’ another Bill, he should tell us what that was.
‘The Acting Premier is either lying to the public, or he’s lying to his party membership. He’s changing his tune depending on his audience.’
During the radio interview, the acting premier suggested that his proposal would expand the existing ecological thinning program beyond what is needed to protect the sensitive environmental area.
‘If you’re expanding the current ecological thinning program, it’s no longer an environmental program, it’s commercial logging pure and simple. Commercial logging has no place in national parks,’ said Ms Washington.
‘Mr Barilaro repeatedly claimed that his proposal would be “sustainable”. If that’s the case, obviously he has a number in mind, so how many trees does he want cut down? If he won’t say how many trees he wants cut down, he can’t claim his proposal is sustainable. It doesn’t make sense because he’s not telling the truth.
‘The National Party was smashed at the last state election and they’re clearly desperate to politicise our national parks to claw back some votes. The community won’t have a bar of it, and the Premier should pull John Barilaro into line before we go down a path of destruction that we’ll all regret,’ concluded Ms Washington.