National Party MP Austin Evans has demanded the degazetting of Murray Valley National Park and reverting it to a state forest to benefit timber harvesters.
Having campaigned for the contentious issue in the run-up to his by-election win last year, Evans has now lodged a private member's bill to reverse the national park status of the 41,000-hectare Murray Valley National Park.
The bill has sparked fears among environmentalists of a serious threat to the region’s conservation and natural heritage.
Though the NSW Government’s response is still awaited, the upcoming state elections in March next year will be a determining factor, especially when it comes to garnering support in rural areas.
Evans explained that his community felt short-changed following the park's creation, and the promised boost in tourism never happened.
The opposition consisting of the Labor Party and the Greens Party as well as environmentalists are warning of an ‘open season’ on conservation efforts in the region if the NSW Government acquiesced to Evans' demands.
Labor's environment spokeswoman, Penny Sharpe commented that the bill may not be discussed before the election but it exposed the agenda of the National Party as well as the Berejiklian government, which, if re-elected, may abolish the Murray Valley National Park as well as other national parks.
The Greens environment spokeswoman, Cate Faehrmann noted that the Liberals were already increasing the amount of native forest that can be clear-felled and reducing protection to threatened animal and plant species from logging.
The protected Murray Valley National Park includes wetlands of international significance and is also habitat to more than 60 terrestrial animal species and 40 plant species listed as threatened under state or Commonwealth legislation.