MEMBER for New England Barnaby Joyce has called for the state government to repeal the legislation at the centre of a long-running land clearing dispute that took a deadly twist this week.
Tamworth man Glen Turner, 51, a compliance officer with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, was carrying out his duties at a Croppa Creek property on Tuesday night when he was fatally shot.
Croppa Creek resident Ian Robert Turnbull, 79, has been charged with murder.
Mr Joyce, also the federal Minister for Agriculture, said he could understand why, in the wake of Tuesday’s tragedy, many had questioned the part played by controversial native vegetation laws, which have been described by the NSW Farmers Association as “one of the biggest impediments to sustainable food and fibre production in NSW”.
They couldn’t be used though to condone an act of violence.
“Of course, nothing is a reason, ever, for shooting a man with a wife and kids. You can never make excuses for something like this, no matter what,” Mr Joyce said.
“(These officers) weren’t the architects of this law, the government was. This man was just doing his job.”
They had, though, created considerable frustration for many on the land, Mr Joyce said, and his office regularly fielded calls from farmers complaining about what they saw as the restrictive nature of the laws.
Mr Joyce said he had had personal experience with trying to defuse confrontations between landholders and government officers in Queensland over land clearing and that “bad laws” just exacerbated situations where farmers were already under pressure from drought and other issues.
“You have this crazy situation where you don’t own the vegetation on your land, the state government does, and many people have had enough,” he said.
of a review of the legislation, which it says will “strike the balance between conservation and efficient agricultural management”, but Mr Joyce wants them to go further.
“I’m calling on the state government to repeal it, get rid of these laws ... (which) shouldn’t be the responsiblity of anyone to try and enforce.”