GREENING REGIONAL VICTORIA: Victorian Upper House Greens candidate, Nicole Rowan, visited Mildura last weekend as part of her campaigning throughout regional Victoria in the lead up to the November State election.

By JOHN DOOLEY

FORMER Woomelang farm girl, now tax lawyer Nicole Rowan is making a bid to be the first ‘regional’ Green to gain a seat in the Victorian Parliament’s Upper House, standing as the Party’s lead candidate in the forthcoming, November State election.

Ms Rowan arrived in Mildura last weekend and spent several days in the district talking to locals and listening to their concerns on a raft of issues.

“I was delighted to be pre-selected in December last year. Northern Victoria is a really important seat and it’s certainly winnable for the Greens,” she said.

“It would be the first regional seat that the Greens have held in Victoria and that’s an important shift I think, from the perspective that the Greens have been traditionally viewed as being an inner-city, inner-Melbourne party, but that isn’t the case.”

Ms Rowan said that the she believes the Green’s policies really resonate in this region.

“They have relevance for farmers, small business owners, and for young people and students seeking access to housing and education and wanting to know that the community they live in, is actually going to continue to develop and prosper with sound economic opportunities,” she said.

“My whole message is that I want people to be able to live ‘where they love.’

“I would love to live further away from Melbourne, but currently my work draws me in there – it certainly was the case for my education.”

Ms Rowan is also aware of the importance of public transport in regional areas and that for many people travelling can be difficult and costly.

“It’s a great pity that Mildura is currently without a passenger rail service – it’s such a beautiful station, sitting there idle without any trains,” she said.

“I’m pleased that the Mildura Rural City Council has put this on the agenda as one of their four key priorities for the region which I’m excited by. That’s the train that I used to take when I was a student and after I had completed my exams and was off to Melbourne to work travelling with my mum – it’s really important that we can restore these crucial rail services – not just up to Mildura, but across the regional Victoria.”

Ms Rowan said she had met with Darling River citrus grower Alan Whyte, and had also been in Swan Hill with Greens Senator Janice Rice, where she attended a water forum with the region’s stakeholders.

“I’m doing my best to really understand what’s going on with water, what the issues are and where things are falling down and importantly, how much information are people getting and how much of it is accurate,” she said.

“I want to know what kind of advocacy needs to be done by the Victorian Parliament to actually address this issue and while I went on the Darling in NSW, when I met Alan – not in Victoria, but clearly it’s all connected and a problem for us all.

“What’s going on in the Darling, particularly further north, for me is where a lot of the issues lie.

“The lack of accountability, the lack of transparency, the vested interests, lack of monitoring are all key issues of concern.

“I used to work for a key regulator, I know how much regulatory capacity Government is actually stripping away and once you don’t have that level of authority, unfortunately that’s when corruption becomes rife.”

The Greens candidate said she looks forward to coming back to Mildura on a number of occasions in the lead up to the election in November.

“I did have a lovely dinner at the Rendevous on Saturday night and I also got along to Fossey’s Gin Emporium on Sunday night to watch ‘Postcards’ on CH9 and so I saw a lot of what Mildura has to offer on that program,” Ms Rowan said.

“I also met people from the Burundian community gardens and what I heard from that community is how much difference that is making to their lives – to actually be able to get out and farm and utilise their farming skills and experience is a wonderful thing.

“Projects like this increase their independence and assists with their mental health and general well being – it has multiple benefits including the growing of more local food – for local consumption.”

Ms Rowan said that one of the things that had struck her during her visit to the city, is that there aren’t really any fresh-food outlets.

“I was expecting that I could walk down the street and buy some local oranges, but that’s not the case,” she said.

“Watching Postcards, I noticed all of the restaurants featured were talking about how they like to incorporate local produce in their dishes which is wonderful and no doubt works to enhance small-scale farming opportunities in the district.”