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Gladys Berejiklian urged to rule out logging in Murray Valley national park

Labor says deputy premier John Barilaro’s plan is outrageous while the Greens label it ‘criminal’New South Wales Labor has demanded Gladys Berejiklian rule out Liberal party support for a Nationals bill that would open up the Murray Valley national park to logging.The premier refused to comment on Thursday after the deputy premier, John Barilaro, vowed to de-gazette the park in the state’s Riverina region or reduce its size. Continue reading...

New South Wales Labor has demanded Gladys Berejiklian rule out Liberal party support for a Nationals bill that would open up the Murray Valley national park to logging.

The premier refused to comment on Thursday after the deputy premier, John Barilaro, vowed to de-gazette the park in the state’s Riverina region or reduce its size.

On Thursday evening, NSW environment minister Matt Kean said in a statement the government was committed to protecting the national environment.

“Any decision to introduce a government bill would be subject to cabinet support.

“Private members bills introduced into parliament are a matter for the relevant member.”

Labor’s environment spokeswoman, Kate Washington, said Barilaro’s plan to introduce legislation that would wind back the park’s protection was “outrageous”.

“What the deputy premier is proposing is outrageous and the premier ought to be pulling him into line to ensure that there is no winding back or revocation of protections of this national park,” Washington said.

“National park protections are designed to be in perpetuity so our children, their children and their grandchildren can have an opportunity to enjoy environments like this.

“The suggestion that there could be a revival of logging of the river red gum is appalling.

“The premier has to come out and tell us what her position is, tell us if she’s going to back her deputy premier or if she’s going to back the environment.”

Barilaro has said a bill will be introduced to the parliament after the winter recess.

Whether it takes the form of a private member’s bill or government bill will depend on there being broader Coalition support for reversing the listing of the park.

Reversing the listing of the 42,000 hectare park known for its river red gum forests was first proposed last year by the former member for Murray, Austin Evans, who was under pressure in his seat at the time over logging. Evans lost his seat in the March election to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party.

Barilaro told Guardian Australia this week he was prepared to have a debate within the Coalition about the park’s status.

The NSW Greens’ environment spokesperson, Cate Faehrmann, said Kean, as environment minister, should reject the proposal.

“In an unprecedented extinction crisis, to suggest that we should bulldoze a national park to revive a dying industry is criminal,” she said.

“I expect the environment minister to take a strong stance and protect our national parks which act as crucial refuges for our threatened plants and animals.”

An alliance of environment groups and the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations has written to the premier asking her to “reject any proposal to degazette or reduce protections for any existing national parks or protected areas in NSW”.

The independent MP, Justin Field, said that “if the deputy premier has to threaten to bring in a private member’s bill it seems there isn’t the support within the government for opening up the Murray Valley national park”.

“The premier talked about building an environmental legacy for her government after the last election. Well you can’t build an environmental legacy by logging our national parks and it’s pretty much as simple as that,” he said.

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