New England by-election: what voters want to hear

ENERGY HUB: The electorate wants to see more renewable energy projects.
ENERGY HUB: The electorate wants to see more renewable energy projects.

Since the by-election was announced, Fairfax Media in New England has been running a survey, asking voters what issues they wanted to hear about from candidates. 

Of the one hundred responses there were a number of common themes.

The desire for more renewable energy projects in the electorate was one of the most popular answers.

New England has already taken baby steps towards being a renewable energy hub, with large windfarms near Glen Innes and Inverell, along with a number of solar farms sprinkled across the region.

This has led voters to see the benefits of the renewable energy industry, with survey participants referencing short-and long-term job creation, reduced energy prices and a clean environmental conscience.

COMMON CONCERN: The rollout of the fibre to the node NBN is a sore point for many constituents.

COMMON CONCERN: The rollout of the fibre to the node NBN is a sore point for many constituents.

Another issue of concern for voters was the National Broadband Network (NBN).

While Armidale has fibre to the premise, the rest of the region will receive fibre to the node (FTTN).

Critics say FTTN is inferior technology, which will not meet the nation’s digital needs as more and more business is conducted online.

Medical cannabis, a topic close to the heart of New England, particularly those in Tamworth, is an issue many within the electorate are keen to see progress on.

The electorate lead the charge to legalise the plant for medical use through Dan Haslam and his family. 

Along with the medical benefits, survey participates cited the jobs and economic stimulation that would come with the multi-billion dollar industry.

BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY: Voters are keen to see more progress on medical cannabis.

BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY: Voters are keen to see more progress on medical cannabis.

While neither are located within the New England electorate, mining on the Liverpool Plains and the proposed coal seam gas project in the Pilliga forest were among the most common concerns. 

Respondents said their biggest concern with the Shenhua Watermark coal mine and the Santos Narrabri Gas Project was the potential damage and contamination the developments could have on the under ground water table, which is an important source of water for farmers across the greater region.

Mining and gas extraction lies almost entirely within the domain of the state government, however the federal government does have the power to use the ‘water trigger’ legislation, which allows the impacts of proposed coal seam gas and large coal mining developments on water resources to be comprehensively assessed at a national level, rather than a state level.

Other common answers included action on climate change, more and better access to health services in the region, better education funding, the creation of more jobs and lowering the price of electricity.