GUYRA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD
[7.08 p.m.]: Tonight I will talk about the Guyra chamber of commerce. But first I emphasise my conflicted interests, reported on Tuesday, when State of Origin comes around. I was in the company of the President when my preferred team won. I pass on my congratulations to the Queensland team. I move on to the subject of the Guyra chamber of commerce. I am pleased to advise the House of the emergence of the chamber of commerce in my home town of Guyra. The business community has been represented by the Guyra Tourism and Commerce Association for many years. That group has recently reformed itself into a chamber of commerce. I bring this to the attention of honourable members because it is a welcome sign of confidence in regional New South Wales.
As I travel round New South Wales, I became aware that many centres do not have chambers. Those centres include much larger towns than Guyra. Guyra is a can-do town, and its recent history shows what can be achieved with strong leadership in the face of adversity. In the mid 1990s Australian Meat Holdings Pty Ltd closed the local abattoir, putting about 300 people out of work. The meatworks had previously peaked at close to 600 employees. Of course, that gutted Guyra, which had to deal with deflated property prices and population loss.
It would have been easy to lose confidence and become introspective but, through the single-minded determination of mayors such as Stuart St Clair, John Hartmann, Richard Burey, Robyn Jackson and Hans Hietbrink and community leaders such as Jo George, David Bearup, Alan St Clair, Grace Kane, Lisa and David Harris, Sally McCook, Bruce Thompson, Bill Wicks and many others, Guyra looked for opportunities and made itself an attractive destination for new business. The council and community organisations spread the message via unusual means. It put on a vintage car rally for a few years. All Over Australia
with Macca brought its Sunday morning radio program to town. Any and every opportunity was taken to talk up the town. The results were not obvious overnight, but the dividends are now showing up. Supreme Stockfeeds took over much of the old saleyards and built a modern feed pelleting plant.
The Costa Group was welcomed to town in 2005. On behalf of Costa, Godfrey Dol selected Guyra as the site of its five-hectare tomato glasshouse. Factors such as sunlight, cloud cover and daily temperatures were obviously important, but Guyra Shire Council bent over backwards to remove any obstacles to the development. Today Blush Tomatoes covers 20 hectares and employs more than 300 staff. The Leader of the Opposition in the Federal Parliament, the Hon. Tony Abbott, MHR, visited the glasshouse in early April this year. The managers highlighted to Mr Abbott that their energy bill was $3.5 million per annum. They are extremely worried about a carbon tax as they are price takers with little capacity to pass on increased costs such as a carbon tax.
The Hon. Rick Colless:
Everybody is worried about the carbon tax.
The Hon. SCOT MacDONALD:
I acknowledge that interjection. This council can be assured that the New South Wales and Federal coalitions will continue to oppose poorly executed climate change policies that will arguably do most of their harm in regional Australia. In spite of threats such as these from Federal Labor and its rainbow coalition of Greens and Independents, Guyra continues to grow. Martha Weiderman will be President of the new chamber. She is also the President-elect of the Rotary Club of Guyra. Ms Weiderman is ably supported by incoming office-bearers Peter Malcolm, Rene Locksey, Alan St Clair and Aileen MacDonald—I declare a keen interest. The Guyra chamber of commerce has become a member of the NSW Business Chamber.
The new committee is looking forward to a strong relationship with the State chamber. It will be on equal footing with members such as the City of Sydney, no less. The State chamber will assist with advice, speakers and high-level networking opportunities. The chamber manned a display at New England Expo earlier in the month. It has plans for a tax seminar and an occupational health and safety seminar, and participation in the Country and Regional Living Expo. This expo is held every year in Sydney and is visited by thousands of city-goers considering a tree or sea change. This highly successful event is organised by the Foundation for Regional Development, led by Mr Peter Bailey, which is based in Armidale. It plays an important role in ensuring that New South Wales grows and develops in a balanced and sustainable manner.
I commend the new Guyra chamber of commerce and its supporters, including Guyra Shire Council. All these people volunteer their own time for the betterment of their community. I am sure they will continue the strong tradition of "Can-do Guyra". As a Guyra-based member of Legislative Council I look forward to providing any assistance possible from the new New South Wales Liberal-Nationals Government.