Matters of the State with Phil Donato: Fishways, firearms bill and Woman of the Year

WELL DESERVED: Phil Donato with 2021 Orange electorate Woman of the Year Mrs Beverley Rankin from Orange. Photo: Submitted

WELL DESERVED: Phil Donato with 2021 Orange electorate Woman of the Year Mrs Beverley Rankin from Orange. Photo: Submitted

FISHWAYS

The Golden Perch, or yellowbelly as it's commonly referred as, is a native fish which is rarely seen in the waters of the Lachlan River nowadays.

Yellowbelly are under threat due to a number of factors, but largely because of their inability to migrate to feed, breed and seek refuge.

Yellowbelly are known to travel hundreds of kilometres to breed, however that would be impossible in the Lachlan River at present, due to the many weirs which prevent them migrating. Weirs and other obstructions are having a detrimental impact on native fish population and river health.

Fishways, also known as fish ladders, allow native fish to bypass weirs. Very few of the weirs have fishways installed to allow the fish to circumnavigate the obstruction.

I asked the Minister for Agriculture and Western NSW if there had been a recent study or assessment to determine the number of existing obstructions to native fish passage, and if so where they had been identified and whether it was necessary to install fish ladders. I also asked him when the fish ladders would be installed.

The Minister responded, naming just two locations where fishways had been installed on the Lachlan. The Minister further responded that audits of fish passage in the Lachlan catchment occurred in the late 2000s.

Regarding my query to Minister Marshall about when the fish ladders will be installed at the mapped obstructions, the Minister replied, "This is currently under consideration."

The Government have had over 10 years, how much longer do they want to consider it?

The NSW Government's own agencies and departments publicly recognise the yellowbelly is under threat as a result of passage obstructions, yet they've done very little to rectify the issue. So it's reasonable to suggest the government have been negligent in addressing this issue for the past decade, at least.

Restocking the river with fingerlings is just a cheap 'band aid' solution, and real species recovery will only be possible if we give our native fish the riverine environment that enables them to exist naturally.

This Government have been vocal on the protection of koalas, however they've failed to act in the protection of the threatened native fish species.

I would call on the Government to install fishways at all of the mapped obstructions on the Lachlan, and other inland rivers.

NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES OF FIREARMS BILL DEBATED

Last week in parliament I led the petition debate against the negative consequences of the NSW Government's Firearms and Weapons Legislation Amendment (Criminal Use) Bill 2020.

Incidentally, the ePetition was record-breaking, in that it is the fastest growing and the largest in the history of NSW Parliament epetitions, garnering 25,000 signatures in less than two weeks and causing the parliament's website to crash several times!

The petition was instigated in response the government's Bill. The government's intention with their Bill was to target criminals, however the Bill posed a substantial risk of negative consequences for licenced shooters and lawful firearms owners. My SFF colleagues in the Upper House managed to have the Bill referred to Parliamentary Committee for an inquiry.

Following public submissions, the Parliamentary Committee made a number of recommendations to rectify the issues identified in the Bill. Not leaving it to chance, the petitioners simultaneously rallied to have the matter debated prior to the Bill becoming legislation.

Under this Bill, there are a lack of safeguards and a statutory defence against prosecution for firearm owners who make legitimate repairs, maintenance and adjustment to lawfully possessed firearms; like all sporting enthusiasts, firearm owners need to repair, maintain, and in some cases modifytheir equipment.

However, unless explicit safeguard provisions are included, there is risk that licensed firearm owners undertaking repairs and maintenance to their registered firearms would be captured under this Bill. There is a risk that they could become unwitting victims of over-zealous enforcement.

The government has incorporated in the Bill the drug-manufacturing term 'precursor', which they've applied to create an offence when a person possessed some common household and hardware tools and products, and which could be used to create a firearms part or alter a firearm. This would render almost every licenced firearms owner a criminal under this Bill.

What farm shed or suburban garage in Australia doesn't have tools such as drills and hacksaws, oils, scrap metals and timber? -ALL precursors under this Bill!

I've called on the government to implement the Parliamentary Committee's recommendations and amend the Bill accordingly.

ORANGE ELECTORATE WOMAN OF THE YEAR

Every year I have the difficult task of nominating a woman from the Orange electorate for the annual Woman of the Year Award. It is difficult because of the sheer number of extraordinary women who are busy helping others in our community.

This year it was my pleasure to award Mrs Beverley Rankin from Orange for 2021 Orange Local Woman of the Year.

Bev has decades of service to community, notably through her affiliation with the not-for-profit, Fusion Australia. She is currently a Team Leader at Fusion Central West.

Aware that many people were homeless or temporarily accommodated with limited cooking facilities, Bev initiated the Hot Meals Outreach, a project run by Orange Uniting Church with the support of Fusion Australia Ltd Central West.

Bev also connected with a number of agencies and churches to deliver alternative Christmas options, to meet the needs of those who would be isolated and without the capacity to enjoy a Christmas lunch.

Bev and her husband Malcom host young people in need of out of home care. Bev is also actively involved in the Orange Uniting Church as a lay preacher, lay presider, SRE teacher and Safe Churches Trainer.

Congratulations Bev, and a big shout out to the many other women doing amazing things across the electorate.

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