It is an honour to have been given responsibility for a portfolio which has the ability to leave an incredible legacy for South Australians many generations into the future, while sustaining our state’s amazing quality of life today.
I grew up on a dairy farm in southern Scotland and was taught the importance of environmental protection from a very early age. My Dad was a committed environmentalist and our stewardship of the land aimed to do everything we could to look after the environment. I moved to Australia with my parents as a teenager and some of my earliest community work was as a founding member of Friends of the Lower Field River, an environmental group based in Hallett Cove. This led me to running for council in 2010 and subsequently to entering State Parliament in 2014.
I believe that the approach I bring to my role as a Member of Parliament has pushed the boundaries in terms of accountability and connection to the community I represent. I want to continue this different way of doing things in my ministerial role and will structure my approach around five key platforms.
I have little time for empty symbolism and ideological purity. As someone who grew up on the land, I was taught that practical works will deliver far more than reams of words. When I look at the government’s environment bureaucracy I see an obsession with planning and a deficit of doing. It’s time to change that and reposition our state’s Environment Department as a place which has the independence, the resources and the passion to nurture, sustain and transform our natural environment. That means more people on the ground, stronger community groups and projects and programs which empower land users.
Government rarely – if ever – knows best! Because of this, we have to listen to and work with the people who understand the environment if we want to protect it, while sustaining the livelihoods of those who rely on our natural resources. I am committed to a process of continual engagement and, as Minister, I will be connecting with communities, visiting the land and building relationships with people. This is an approach that I will continue now that I have been appointed as Minister for the Environment.
I will forge strong, productive partnerships with the many stakeholders who care for our environment and work within it. This includes landholders, volunteer groups, industry experts, other tiers of government and advocacy organisations. Partnerships involving people closer to the challenges experienced on the ground will ensure that more innovative, efficient and often more cost-effective solutions can be established.
South Australia’s regions are an absolutely vital plank of our state’s economy and they are also where many of our best environmental assets are found. Our state does not come to a screeching halt at the Tollgate or at Gepps Cross or at the bottom of Anzac Highway. Distance should not mean disadvantage and I will place connecting with regional communities at the heart of my work. I am conscious that I am the Member of Parliament for an Adelaide-based seat, so that makes me all the more determined to visit and build relationships with the regions.
Our environment is too precious to play politics with. Decisions taken today will leave legacies for generations to come and long-term vision and evidence-based policies are required to deliver lasting change. I will not let South Australia’s environment be hijacked by short-term, populist interests or fleeting fads.
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