Nationals Eden-Monaro candidate Trevor Hicks heard about the challenges facing the forestry industry when he visited Tumut on Wednesday.
Mr Hicks met with representatives of the forestry industry at t round table discussion Tumut Golf Club late in the morning and said it was good to listen to their concerns.
“In the mid-term they ae going to struggle once they salvage what trees they’ve got that are burnt,” he said.
“That creates its own problems with the charcoal. There’s a nine-month window where they can harvest those trees and after that it is going to be difficult. Freight costs are going to increase as they go further afield to get the stock and they will be looking at taking some of the export market, which means the pruct goes through the roof in terms of export market not wanting to let that go.
“John Barilaro has offered $46 million for the replanting process and I think that really needs to start straight away.”
Mr Hicks believes that once the burnt areas are cleared, planting must begin straight away.
“Then in nine month’s time we get the advantage of the nine month growth. It’s probably the ten-year trees that have been hit hardest in the bushfires, so it’s going to be an issue for them.”
Mr Hicks got a good picture of how important the forestry industry is to the Snowy Valleys at the round table discussion.
“The understanding I got was that there are over 1000 jobs created in Tumut and Tumbarumba,” he said.
“That’s a significant amount of jobs and they filter through the whole community. We need to save those jobs and save these towns.
He believes the mills need to operate at 100 per cent capacity to remain viable.
“They can’t just cut half of it back or half the staff back,” he said.
“It needs to run and they need stock and we need to help them with fuel subsidies and getting the replanting going and look at opportunities elsewhere where they can increase their stock where it is currently planted.”
Liberal candidate Fiona Kotvojs told the Tumut and Adelong Times that either she or Labor’s Kristy McBain will be victors in tomorrow’s by election, but Mr Hicks isn’t convinced, especially with the increase in support for the Nationals reflected in recent polling.
“I’m sure Fiona would like to think that, and it doesn’t help when The Australian (newspaper) yesterday (Tuesday) said our preferences will help get Fiona over the line,” he said.
“We’re not there to help her get over the line, we’re here to win this election.
“The National Party is the only party that delivers for regional Australia. This electorate is the sixth biggest in Australia; it’s a rural electorate and the National Party have never held this seat in 100 years; we deserve a shot at the title.”
Mr Hicks wishes the campaign hadn’t been short, and concedes the Labor and Liberal parties have had better preparation.
“If only it was a longer campaign,” he said.
“Three weeks it’s been going for; it feels like about three years or three months. We’ve hit the ground running and we’ve made ground; our numbers are going up. If it was a Melbourne Cup length campaign rather than a sprint, we’d probably have the title. It has been difficult for us; we haven’t been able to get around the electorate like we normally would in this sort of campaign.”
Mr Hicks has visited Tumut twice in the lead-up to the by election and is confident of having had a good campaign.
He is not trying to get much mileage out of an advertising blunder in the Kristy McBain’s campaign which stated that she would be “a voice for Wagga” despite Wagga not being part of Eden-Monaro.
“She’s from Bega and she’s got three kids, she says she supports small business, she’s a solicitor; she’s got her hands full down at Bega and I can understand her being confused with Wagga,” he said.
“It’s a large electorate and it certainly needs somebody who is going to roll their sleeves up and get the job done. It’s going to be a tough job.”
He believes that because it will be a two-year term for the winner, the impact he would make as a successful candidate would be marginal, but that it is more the point that constituents don’t want someone in opposition who can’t get the job done or a ‘yes’ person.
“You need somebody that’s going to get the job done, talk tough and get the money for this electorate,” he said.
While Mr Hicks was at the pre-polling station in Tumut on Wednesday he was taken to task for placing Labor fourth on preferences.
“We just want to eliminate some of the oddball parties, those that just stand up for one issue
“There are 14 candidates, and the chances of some of them getting more than one per cent of the vote are slim,” he said.
“I’d like to think it’s a three-horse race and preferences are going to be critical and if we get a good ballot and preferences come our way, we can pull this off.”
Mr Hicks conceded that he didn’t know enough about the proposed Tumut to Batlow Rail Trail to adopt a strong stance, but supports the Snowy 2.0 project without reservation.
He believes the brumbies in Kosciuszko National Park should be “given the respect they deserve”, and while he was at McDonald’s in Tumut, someone left a note on the windscreen pleading with him to “save the brumbies”.
However, he concedes that if the brumbies are damaging the national park then a management plan will be necessary, although he strongly feels that this should involve rehoming the animals rather than aerial culling.