THE extensively mined and scarred Hunter Valley is a warning to New England voters of what will happen to the region if the policies of the Coalition and Labor remain unchecked, the Greens byelection candidate says.
Quirindi farmer and community campaigner Peter Wills will entered the race wearing the Greens’ flag, in a move the party said highlighted growing links between Greens supporters and agricultural communities across New England.
Mr Wills is known to Liverpool Plains farmers as a staunch member and activist in their long campaigns against the Shenhua and BHP Caroona coal mines, and the Santos coal seam gas project in the Pilliga.
He said his campaign would focus on protecting land and water from unwanted coal mines and CSG wells and helping workers transition to sustainable jobs in the renewable energy economy.
“New England voters have a clear choice in this election – they can vote for the coal parties, or vote Greens to save agricultural land, water, and native Australian habitats,” Mr Wills said.
“My father worked this land until the very day he passed away, his last job fixing a leaking water trough,.
“The community and I can’t and won’t sit by while government want to risk our most precious resource, water, for the sake of coal and CSG.”
Fairness in schools and TAFE funding, and justice for Aboriginal communities and refugees are also on Mr Wills’ agenda.
Mr Wills said politics wasn’t something he ever planned to get involved in, but he found the threats to land and water too pressing to ignore.
“As far back as 2008, Greens MPs have stood with Liverpool Plains farmers in our struggles against coal mines and the old party thinking and agenda,” he said.
“The first was NSW Senator Lee Rhiannon, and every Greens leader from Bob Brown to Christine Milne and Richard Di Natale have made numerous visits to the region.”
“Local farmers have also noticed the Greens regular appearances at AgQuip for several years now, thanks to Greens NSW MP Jeremy Buckingham. Another regular visitor in support of Aboriginal Justice is NSW upper house MP David Shoebridge.”
Previous New England candidates Pat Schultz and Mercurius Goldstein have backed Mr Wills and will be working in support of his campaign.
In 2013, Ms Schultz recieved 4.6 per cent of the vote, while in 2016 Mr Goldstein got 2.9 per cent of the vote.