THE futures of the North West and New England’s agricultural and manufacturing industries were discussed at length in a Tamworth community forum last night.
The “Health, Environment and Economy at Risk” public meeting was held at the community centre where interested locals turned up to hear about the growth of the coal seam gas and mining industries in the region.
Three specialists spoke to the crowd which gathered at 6.30pm for the two-hour forum.
It was the first public meeting of four that will take place across the region over the next week.
The Australia Institute’s Mark Ogge visited the city for the first time to discuss the ramifications of coal seam gas and mining on the region’s ingrained industries, including manufacturing and agriculture.
His visit coincided with the release of a new Australia Institute report which found NSW farmers are losing out of the mining boom when it comes to exports.
“Australian farmers lost $61.5 billion of export income as a result of mining boom income,” Mr Ogge said.
Looking at wheat and cotton, the region’s two biggest agricultural products, Mr Ogge said the nation’s farmers lost more than $4 billion.
He said mining and coal seam gas crowded out other economies, including education, transport and manufacturing.
Mr Ogge said, so far, the manufacturing industry had held up pretty well, which was important in Tamworth as it represented 10 per cent of jobs.
He said Tamworth in particular was a great example of a regional centre made up of versatile industries, which were at threat from the boom.
“When the boom is over, we want sustainable jobs,” Mr Ogge said.
Sharyn Munro, author of coal seam gas novella Rich Land, Wasteland, and Dr Steve Robinson of the Doctors for the Environment Australia also spoke.
The three speakers will continue to tour the region for the rest of the week when other meetings are held in Gunnedah tonight and Narrabri and Moree the following nights.