The NSW Government said on Monday there are no plans to change the status of the Murray Valley National Park, despite Nationals’ member for Murray Austin Evan’s promise to introduce a bill to parliament to reclassify River Red Gum national parks as state forests.
Just before the Murray by-election, Mr Evans committed to drafting a Private Members’ Bill that would allow the timber industry to resume logging of river red gums – large, single stemmed eucalypt trees located along the Murray river.
However, a spokesman for NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton said on Monday, “there are no plans to change the status of the Murray Valley National Park”.
The spokesman noted, “all members of parliament are entitled to propose a private member's bill”.
Minister Upton is a Liberal party member of the NSW Government, which is a Coalition between the Liberals and Mr Evans’ National Party.
Nationals party leader and deputy premier John Barilaro on Monday threw his support behind Mr Evans going ahead with the bill – highlighting the division within the NSW Government on the Red River Gums issue.
“As it currently stands, the Murray Valley National Park is a failure of policy”.
“I fully support Austin as the local member in drafting his Bill. It’s what you’d expect of a good local member who is prepared to fight for their community”.
NSW Labor has accused the Nationals of breaking a key Murray by-election promise.
“The National Party promised the world when they were sandbagging the seat of Murray,” shadow minister Michael Vietch said.
“One month after the by-election – there has been no signal to the Head of Forests to start negotiations to de-gazette the National Park”.
Mr Vietch said the chief bureaucrat in charge of NSW Forestry advised NSW Parliament that there are no plans to de-gazette the Murray Valley National Park.
Under questioning in a supplementary hearing into Lands and Forestry today, Simon Smith, Secretary of the Department of Industry, said he had no knowledge of anyone in his department being directed to start negotiating with the Office of Environment and Heritage on Red River Gum national parks.
Prior to the Murray by-election, Mr Evans was scathing of Labor and the Greens on the issue.
“Rather than hyperventilate on outrage about the latest species of frog which may be inconvenienced, the Greens would be well-advised to focus on the humans whose lives have been inconvenienced by their ideological fundamentalism”.
“The Greens and Labor are singing from the same songsheet on this issue… culpable in consigning the local timber industry to a slow death...”.
It appears Mr Evans own environment minister might be humming the same tune.