Previously a senator for Queensland from 2005 to 2013
The electoral return of Independent candidate Tony Windsor, who held this seat 2001-2013, has focused attention on whether the electorate can be retained by Barnaby Joyce. New England is a prime agricultural region, and a key local election issue is the 2015 approval granted to the proposed Chinese-owned Shenhua Watermark coal mine on the Liverpool Plains.
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The sudden emergence of former 2001-2013 Independent Tony Windsor, returning to oppose current member deputy prime minster Barnaby Joyce has thrown doubt over the electorate fate of this seat.
The electorate of New England comprises 9.9 million hectares and includes the local government areas of Armidale Dumaresq, Glen Innes Severn, Gunnedah, Guyra, Gwydir, Inverell, Liverpool Plains, Moree Plains, Narrabri, Tamworth Regional, Tenterfield, Uralla and Walcha.
Current issues in the electorate include a strong focus on keeping jobs for local farmers and the conflict between agriculture and mining, including the Shenhua Mine, proposed for the arable Liverpool Plains, and coal seam gas mining.
The Northern Tablelands has the state’s fifth highest proportion of the workforce employed in agriculture, fishing and forestry (16.6%). Primary production includes grains, beef, lamb, pork, wool, dairying, fruit and vegetables, poultry, eggs, viticulture and aquaculture.
Agriculture from the region is worth around $1.8 billion annually..
The electorate sits within just under two million hectares of NSW’s most valuable agricultural land as well as water sources and in 2012 the NSW Government set out to protect it through the Strategic Land Use Policy, in which 27 measures were introduced to identify, map and protect valuable residential and agricultural land across the state from the impacts of mining and coal seam gas extraction.
The policy also highlights the importance of water within the region as it is used for the town water supply, watering stock, recreation and aquatic food production.
The future of water supply and agricultural land has been highlighted amidst controversy over the Shenhua Watermark mine proposal.
Federal Minister Greg Hunt conditionally approved the mine last year and the mine remains one of the key issues in the electorate.