Bellingen is a very dog-oriented town so it didn’t surprise me to see a little terrier under Andrew Woodward’s table when I arrived at No. 5 Church St to interview him.
Earlier this month, Andrew was chosen as the Labor candidate to run against Luke Hartsuyker at the next federal election. What a great conversation-starter a dog would be for a pollie on the hustings, I thought.
“Don’t try to pat her,” he warned me as I sat down. “She’ll bite your fingers.”
Rainbeau, an eight-year-old Tenterfield Terrier, is a rescue dog owned by Andrew’s girlfriend. She is wary of new people and not keen on other dogs either.
Our interview was punctuated by yappings and apologies as Rainbeau repeatedly emerged from under the table like a small heat-seeking missile to make a ferocious lunge at passing pooches and their owners.
Maybe not such a great companion to take on the hustings after all.
A former radio sports journalist who moved into marketing, corporate affairs and management consulting, Andrew had a stint living on the Mid North Coast in the 1980s and came back two years ago, permanently relocating to Bellingen.
He’s a member of LEAN, the Labor Environment Action Network, and his management consulting and marketing communications practice specialises in climate change, renewable energy, sustainable development, conservation and environmental advocacy.
So I asked him for his views on local issues related to climate change, such as forestry, the timber industry, the Stop Adani movement, and Bellingen’s water security.
Bellingen is surrounded by plantations and state forests, which are all potentially loggable – what’s your stand on that?
“I’m of the view that most of the plantations around here, which were established in the mid-1960s on old farming land, were probably a good idea at the time. But just because something was the right thing 50 years ago doesn’t necessarily mean it should be that way today. Because several things have changed.
“One is the climate. Two, species are under threat. Three, residential areas. Four, we know a lot more about chemical run-off now. And five, fire danger.
“I think timber has a really big future. It’s a renewable resource and its production is far less carbon-intensive than the manufacture of steel or concrete. I see a positive future for timber jobs, but whether they should remain where they have for the last 50 years is the issue.”
Is that the issue, or is it more the manner of the harvesting? The clearfelling, the burning …
“Yeah, that’s another issue. The first thing to say is that there’s legislation in the NSW Parliament that controls this. Then there’s the contracts they give to the various operators. Are those regulations and contracts being policed? One of the problems we have here is the EPA is not resourced.
“Land use needs have changed. People want to live [in places like Tarkeeth]. And do we really want smoke haze? It’s bad for tourism, it turns people off.
“People talk about timber jobs, but there’s less than half a dozen jobs in Tarkeeth. If we take a bigger picture view of the shire, what’s going to be our lead income generator in the years ahead? It’s going to be tourism. Tourism and retirement.”
What about the Great Koala National Park idea?
“It’s something I fully support.
With the Stop Adani protests we had recently, did you go to the one at Coffs, or donate to John Ross’ fines [for locking on to the Point Abbot coal loader]?
“I went to the beach one, yes. And I went to the film night in the hall. But I don’t support people breaking the law. There are better ways to protest.
“I am 100 per cent opposed to that mine. But it’s met every approval and has been challenged in court about three times and won every time. To stop it, the government would be exposed to a multi-billion dollar payout.
“I personally believe the Adani mine will never happen. It’s a balance sheet problem for them. If they pull the mine, their company value halves.”
Do you think it will just hang about on the books to keep them looking good, but it won’t actually proceed?
Bellingen is totally reliant on the river for its water, do you have any ideas about what could be done to improve our water security?
“The weather is changing dramatically. But dams everywhere are not the answer, because we have wildlife and habitat issues. I think people having tank water is something that needs to be looked at. When it does rain, what’s happening to it? Community education is another thing.”
Andrew Woodward will be hosting Anthony Albanese (Shadow Minister for Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development and the Shadow Minister for Tourism) at Politics in the Pub (Coffs Harbour Hotel) on Friday April 20 from 5.30pm. Both will be happy to take questions.
I should note that by the end of this 45-minute interview, Rainbeau had decided I was an acceptable human and approached me in a friendly manner.
So I patted her. Cautiously.