Visiting our Local MP by Nick Blandford

Earlier last week I was fortunate enough to be a part of a presentation to the Federal Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester with the Farmers for Climate Action* on their ambitious project Regional Horizons.

This is a $1.8 billion dollar project that aims to help regional and rural areas adapt to climate change by building resilient communities and developing strategies and infrastructure to mitigate their effect of greenhouse gas emissions. The four core work areas of the plan are

  • The development and delivery of the National Climate Change and Agriculture Work Plan, which all state and federal Agriculture Ministers have already agreed to. Done well, the plan could play an important role coordinating efforts to promote climate-smart agriculture and build regional resilience to drought, fire and other mounting risks
  • A new Land and Environment Investment Fund (LEIF), working from the successful Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC), to support innovation, attract large-scale investment, reward ecosystem services, and promote climate solutions and resilience on the land.
  • A Regional Resilience Hub Network, to strengthen and diversify existing learning networks, encourage innovation, and empower regional communities with choices in a changing climate.
  • A Regional Energy Transition Program, to promote and support community-based, clean energy developments, and modernise and decentralise power grids.

This approach aligns with the policy framework already being develop through the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment which includes the national agriculture work plan, the drought future fund and the development of drought resilience hubs as well as the renewable energy plan for regional Australia developed by independent member for Indi Helen Haines. Mr Chester appeared to take the strategy of this plan with positivity and we look forward to seeing his support for these proposals and particularly in the Gippsland region.

The concerns raised by Mr Chester around the implementation was that in the past such proposals haven’t led to any tangible benefits in the community with reference to job security and creation. It was also pointed out that asking members   of the community to change was often met with resistance when the management of social, economic and environmental resources on the regional level has been poor with the example of forest management before the bushfire as the example.

Where there was agreement was that the ideology of managing climate change needs to be a bipartisan issue and one that was not only the realm of “green” candidates. However even the most ardent of supporters for climate action within the community would struggle to move the pendulum of this issue within the National Party Room as ideology rather than geography dictates their policy decisions. So, while we can pressure politicians to step up to more significant action, until the community makes this an issue at the ballot box to shift the ideology it will remain to be seen if we see significant government support for climate actions in our rural and regional areas.

*the author is a member of EGCAN and Farmers for Climate Action. More information on regional horizons here.