Ex-MP urges New State breakaway

Long before Garry Nehl was a federal member he lead the pseudo successionsist movement The Banana Republic and in 1979 was its first El Presidente.
Long before Garry Nehl was a federal member he lead the pseudo successionsist movement The Banana Republic and in 1979 was its first El Presidente.

BACK before his tenure as our Member for Cowper (1984-2001), Garry Nehl championed a radical cause.

He was heavily involved in the New State movement which pushed to create Australia's ninth legislature by cutting Newcastle, the Hunter, New England and the north-west adrift from NSW.

"The New State movement began in 1961 because we believed we were paying too much in taxes and contributing above our weight to the state economy but not getting our fair share back," Mr Nehl said.

"We were ignored then just as we're being ignored now. I believe there is a very strong case to revisit the idea again."

Given the latest offerings from the O'Farrell Government Mr Nehl has a point.

This week's Infrastructure NSW report confirmed that NSW now just stands for Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong with its recommendation that city stretches of the Pacific Hwy be given priority over regional roads, due to the "high cost and relatively limited benefits'' of the Port Macquarie-to-Urunga and Woolgoolga-to-Ballina upgrades.

But it's not just the O'Farrell Government's attitude to fast tracking improvements to roads that inconvenience rather than kill that is galling a growing number of country folk.

Statistics show non-metropolitan residents have a higher uptake of renewable energy.

The government's response has been to slash the feed-in tariff, making many recently bought solar systems unviable while pushing up power prices.

Repeatedly the government's bureaucratic efforts seem concentrated on supporting a bloated capital verging on being unlivable and unsustainable.

The answer, many think, is to decentralise services and drive population growth to regional areas.

It is ironic that among the thousands of rural public service jobs cut by the Coalition were those of the staff at the now-defunct Coffs Harbour office of Regional Development.

This week's release of a paper by former deputy secretary of the Treasury, Richard Murray adds weight to calls for a re-drawing of boundaries. It proposes a federal structure of five city and 19 regional councils and the abolition of state governments.

SCU political scientist Dr Klass Woldring fears a Northern Rivers Regional Council with a population of 485,000 residents and its "capital'' at Port Macquarie would be counter-productive to democracy.

In light of that, the "New State" idea must be worth revisiting.

"In 1967, 67% of northern NSW residents supported the New State concept with Tamworth as the capital when it was put to a referendum. It was only the votes of people in Newcastle and the Hunter which stopped it happening," Mr Nehl said.

"In 1934 the Nicholson Royal Commission recommended the creation of a new state of New England, and within chapter six of the Australian constitution the machinery exists for that to happen. We are a naturally rich and highly productive area, and the area's population exceeds that of Tasmania, so why do we continue to miss out?"

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