Shooters deal delivers power sale

THE state’s Hunter-based electricity generators are almost certain to be sold with the O’Farrell Government securing the support of key crossbench MPs.

The deal will also result in at least four of the Hunter Region’s national parks being opened up to recreational shooters.

Legislation enabling the sale passed the NSW upper house late last night, after the government yesterday announced the two Shooters and Fishers party MPs who share the balance of power would back the sale.

The government agreed to terms from the MPs Robert Borsak and Robert Brown, put forward on behalf of unions, that permanent workers at power stations including those in the Hunter be given a four-year job guarantee after the generators were sold.

As part of the deal struck, Premier Barry O’Farrell has backed away from past promises that he would not allow hunting in national parks.

The government would instead amend laws to permit recreational shooting of feral animals in 79 national parks and conservation areas, including the popular Myall Lakes, Watagans, Barrington Tops national parks and the Barrington Tops state conservation areas.

Mr O’Farrell said the sale would unlock $3 billion for spending on sorely needed infrastructure.

Mr O’Farrell acknowledged he would not otherwise have approved the measure had he not needed the crossbenchers’ support, saying the government had to ‘‘live with the parliament that the people of NSW have given us’’.

‘‘Our bigger public interest test here is to unlock the asset value of the generators to assist us in rebuilding the economy by delivering the infrastructure needed to get this state going,’’ Mr O’Farrell said.

Hunter Business Chamber cautiously welcomed the news last night.

‘‘The potential $3 to $5 billion boost to NSW is significant for major infrastructure projects but we are mindful of potential impacts on the Hunter region also,’’ chamber chief executive officer Kristen Keegan said.

“We look forward to seeing the detail behind the sale and gaining a better understanding of what this means more widely for the Hunter Region.’’

Mr Brown said he and Mr Borsak had secured ‘‘the best deal possible’’ for Upper Hunter power station workers, many of who were nearing retirement age, while paving the way for investment in infrastructure.

The government had resisted giving a four-year job guarantee for workers, as it did not want to go beyond the two-year commitment given to staff at Sydney Ferries as a private operator.

In Parliament yesterday, Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner declared the deal a ‘‘good result’’ for regional NSW, which would receive at least 30 per cent of the sale proceeds.

The Shooters said the government had also agreed to establish a panel or authority that would help determine how the sale proceeds would be spent in regional areas.

Mr Borsak said that would ensure regional communities had input into which projects were funded rather than the decisions being made by the government and Infrastructure NSW which were focused on Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong.

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