The New South Wales Government needs to immediately rethink its plans to close the Alstonville Tropical Horticulture Centre, Member for Ballina Don Page said.
Mr Page called on the Government to investigate ways of continuing the research done at Alstonville, instead of ‘flogging off the valuable real estate’.
He said the Tropical Horticulture Centre is recognised by the State Government as the key facility in New South Wales that supports sub-tropical horticulture.
“To lose that sort of facility would be a terrible blow to horticulture, not only in northern New South Wales, but the rest of the state,” Mr Page said.
“Staff at the Research Station specialise in sub-tropical crops including macadamias, bananas, avocados, passionfruit, low-chill stone fruit, custard apples and more recently blueberries.
“Their expertise is immense and valuable and some of the research being carried out there is ground-breaking in terms of environmental sustainability.
“For example, an entomologist is looking at how to find more natural solutions for controlling insect pests, while other researchers are focusing on things like reducing erosion and improving the health of soils.
“I am strongly opposed to closing the Alstonville Tropical Fruit Research Station – it is a short-sighted move to help plug the State Government’s deficit but it will have long-term implications for horticulture on the North Coast.
“I implore the State Government to reconsider the decision or, at the very least, relocate the research being carried out at the Alstonville facility to the nearby Wollongbar Primary Industries Institute.
“We cannot lose the expertise or work that is currently being carried out at the Alstonville Tropical Horticulture Centre.
“At least if the research arm is relocated to Wollongbar, scientists will be able to continue their work.
“The New South Wales Government needs to realise how much the horticulture industry is worth to the North Coast – macadamias alone are worth around $100 million a year in income.
“I ask the New South Wales Government not to rush this decision – let’s fully investigate this transfer option before making any rash decisions about closing the Alstonville Research Station and flogging off the valuable real estate.
“I am seeking an immediate meeting with the Minister for Primary Industries, Ian Macdonald, to try to convince him to look at what we can do to save more than 40 years of study at the Alstonville Tropical Horticulture Centre and the intellectual and practical expertise which has been generated by staff.”