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North-west farmers say they're fighting drought and native vegetation legislation

Sally Bryant, Thursday August 21, 2014 - 15:00 EST
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Walgett farmer Cam Rowntree says he feels like he's battling on two fronts - against the drought, and against restrictive native vegetation legislation. - ABC

Cam Rowntree says the recent tragic shooting at Croppa Creek near Moree is exactly that, a terrible tragedy.

But he says this event should not have come as a huge surprise, that the nearly two decade long fight over native vegetation legislation has caused farmers untold stress and mental anguish and the recent events bear this out.

A farmer near Walgett in the north west of NSW, Cam Rowntree says the current drought conditions are creating huge problems for landholders in his region but the impacts of native legislation restrictions cannot be ignored.

"You'd be extremely naive to say that this is not a very, very, very important issue in this part of the world and some of the statements that have been made by ministers and Office of Environment and Heritage officials, that it's only a small fraction of people that are affected by this, is absolute rubbish."

Cam says farmers are trying to maximise their drought preparedness, increase their long-term viability and feel they have no power over their businesses.

"You have to ask yourself how events like this happen; they don't happen because everyone is happy.

"People are really stressed about this and they believe that their ability to farm and to manage their business effectively has been seriously reduced."

The NSW Minister for Natural Resources, Land and Water Kevin Humphries told a general assembly at the recent NSW Farmers annual conference the changing the law is going to be very complex and fraught with difficulty.

Cam Rowntree was in the audience at that gathering.

"Yes, I heard what Kevin said at the conference, and I've discussed the matter with him privately as well.

"I don't care how hard it is, I just want it fixed."

Cam says the ongoing drought in the north-west of the state is cruel, particularly in light of recent rains, but it's only one of the problems that farmers like him are facing.

"We can't run our farms effectively when our hands are tied by legislation."

"Farmers prepare for droughts like these by stockpiling fodder, grains, hay, silage - if we're being stopped from developing some of this under-developed rich flat northern country, it's limiting our ability to be self-sufficient."


© ABC 2014

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