Shadow Minister for Local Government Greg Warren seeking opinion and concerns of Upper Hunter residents

QUICK VISIT: State Labor MP Greg Warren visited Muswellbrook on Thursday to find out what the major issues facing the region were.
QUICK VISIT: State Labor MP Greg Warren visited Muswellbrook on Thursday to find out what the major issues facing the region were.

WITH raging bushfires, crippling droughts and the mining industry under a cloud, politicians have been keen to call into the region to see what they can do to help.

The latest individual to join the trend was Shadow Minister for Local Government and Campbelltown MP Greg Warren.

He visited several towns on a Hunter-wide tour this week, stopping in at the likes of Branxton, Singleton and Muswellbrook to meet local councils and community groups.

Sitting down for a coffee at Double Picc cafe on Thursday, January 16, he said it was crucial to obtain feedback about the problems rural districts were facing.

"There's been over 150,000 hectares of bushfire around this area, there's been vineyards lost, issues with air quality and the ongoing drought," he solemnly stated.

"The effect that's having on the local economy and local jobs is something that needs to be taken really seriously.

"And, ultimately, I'm out here talking with local communities to see what I can take back to the parliament, and then make any and every representation on their behalf that they need."

Mr Warren is familiar with the area, having spent time at the infantry centre in Singleton during his time in military service, and has positioned himself as an advocate for mining given his past role of driving coal trucks.

He stated that while a shift to renewable energy is a must, it cannot come at the expense of the thousands of workers currently employed in the fossil fuel industry and a transition plan needs to be set up and funded.

"Putting the worker and our mining industry at the forefront of what we do is important," he said.

"But, the federal government must have initiatives in place to firstly acknowledge then address the policy space of climate change.

"I personally believe you can do both, you don't have to shut down an industry to solve an issue in another policy area.

"I think [Upper Hunter MP] Michael Johnsen's comments [about climate change] are unwelcome and more about political expedience and advantage rather than having a good, constructive, pragmatic approach to the policy areas people are actually talking about."

However, the inescapable issue of the Upper Hunter's air quality was also raised, which has for years been leaving officials walking a tightrope as they demand action on the issue, while simultaneously pledging support for one of its major causes.

Mr Warren revealed he'd received strong community feedback in regards to the problem though, and said those views deserved to be heard and addressed.

"We haven't seen the appropriate level of action as an outcome to air quality matters that continue to concern the community, and I don't think their demand has been unreasonable," he said.

"All they've ultimately wanted is better engagement, to be heard and then have more focused monitoring systems so the issue is being monitored and people's health and safety is adequately looked after."

Despite Mr Warren and Mr Johnsen having had their differences laid out quite publicly in the past, the former confirmed he would still be willing to work with the Member for Upper Hunter on any matter.

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