BELLINGEN Shire can now lay claim to having a residing member of the NSW Legislative Council.
Jeremy Buckingham, Greens member and spokesperson for agriculture, mining and regional development, has pulled up stumps from Orange to come and live here, along with his wife Sarah, and two children, Eden and James.
His move, coming after 15 years of holidaying to the region, is set to refocus the Bellingen Shire as Greens territory.
“I’m moving to Bellingen for a number or reasons,” Mr Buckingham told the Courier-Sun.
“For a start, it’s an incredibly beautiful area and a great place to raise a family. It’s vibrant and has an engaged community that we are keen to become part of. There’s also a large, politically active, Greens membership.
“This relocation from the central part of the State to the north, will give me the chance to hear the concerns of locals, from the Dorrigo expansion to the mining threats to the Nambucca Valley to the recent (proposed) sell off of our power infrastructure.”
Mr Buckingham acknowledged the shire has a diverse range of views and believes he is well equipped to cater for this.
He was born and raised in Tasmania and was heavily influenced by the controversies surrounding Tasmanian forests and wild rivers. Mr Buckingham began his working life as a sawmiller, forklift driver and stonemason before entering politics and this foundation has led him to believe that “the exploitation of natural resources can happen, but it has to be carefully balanced with environmental sustainability”.
In 1996, he moved to Orange where he undertook an Advanced Diploma in Ecological Agriculture and Land Management from Sydney University. His studies were put to the forefront when in 2004 he was elected to the Orange City Council and began to implement environmental projects.
“Australia’s first storm-water harvesting project for drinking water supply … and I fought to protect water supplies from mining interests,” he said.
Mr Buckingham is introducing a ‘responsible mining bill’ into the NSW Parliament as part of a general campaign to curtail the mining operations within the State.
“It’s clear from the recent ICAC investigations that people have lost confidence in the ability of the major parties to responsibly manage mining operations. There is no integrity in the process and those in charge have been representing vested interests,” he said.
As a convener of the Country Greens network, Mr Buckingham is out to promote his party in country communities.
When questioned about how the Greens see the Bellingen Shire’s future, especially in light of recent data predicting the population would fall in coming years, he named agriculture, arts and tourism as key drivers.
“More people is not necessarily better, what is important is that people have choices,” Mr Buckingham said.
“The Greens want to support the local food producers, dairy, organic providers, macadamias, fisheries – sustainable agriculture. Not digging and chopping: a focus on renewables, clean energy and a long term environmental view.
“Tourism is also a key asset for the Bellingen Shire. We have a world heritage listed National Park and beautiful waterways. The appropriate services and infrastructure for tourists need to be a focus.
“And the arts. This is massive part of the cultural fabric of the Bellingen Shire.”
The Greens candidate from Oxley, Carol Vernon welcomed Mr Buckingham to the town and reiterated her colleague’s sentiments about the local area needing to be protected from the “Liberal and National party policies”.