The partial closure of Goulburn’s Rifle Range initially fired up Andrew Wood to stand at the next State election.
But the Mulwaree High School music teacher wants to make one thing clear; the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party which he’s representing is not single issue.
“They represent freedoms in general – the freedom for people to live their life in the way they see fit,” he said.
"We’re a centre right party and certainly conservative and in that sense it stands for the things I value.”
Mr Wood has lived in Goulburn with wife, Catriona for the past 16 years. The father of eight children, aged between 15 and nine months, says he’s not a career politician. But the partial closure of Goulburn Rifle Range due to Firearms Registry regulations initially sparked his interest in running for the seat.
“It has re-opened but we can only use limited and low-powered rifles. The problem could have been rectified easily,” he said.
The Sporting Shooters Association of Australia (SSAA), of which he’s a member, has argued a risk management rather than uniform approach should be taken to rules regarding the range danger area. This is the zone where danger to life and limb can be expected.
Mr Wood describes that issue as “the last straw” in his decision but there’s much more on his mind.
He cites water management and the way dams, rivers and streams are managed, particularly for farmers, as a key concern.
“We’re seeing too many short-term fixes for long-term problems,” he said.
Mr Wood said like hospital funding and the health sector generally, too many decisions were being made in Sydney for country people. He wants to see more financial support for Goulburn Base Hospital and is backing the NSW Nurses and Midwives Association’s nurse to patient ratios campaign.
On the hospital’s $120 million redevelopment, Mr Wood said he’d like to speak further to the Association and to other parties.
Naturally, he’s passionate about education funding. Mr Wood said he was painfully aware more was needed to address literacy and numeracy rates. TAFE also needed attention.
“We had so many resources at Goulburn and across the region but the State Government has torn it apart. Kids are travelling long distances to study and that shouldn’t be the case,” he said.
“We want to see an expansion of TAFE across NSW and have government invest in it again rather than hand it over to the private sector which doesn’t have the resources or interest in education programs.”
Mr Wood also wants to advance the Goulburn to Crookwell rail trail, which he sees as valuable eco-tourism.
“It’s really exciting and I’m puzzled as to why it hasn’t gone further,” he said.
“There’s plenty of community support, the mayor of Goulburn Mulwaree and Upper Lachlan Shire are behind it. There are numerous rail trails in Victoria but we can’t get one through.”
Mr Wood said landowner concerns about the biosecurity on the rail trail were statewide but he believed they could be overcome.
The 45-year-old describes Goulburn as a great place to live and raise a family. He grew up in western Sydney and after marrying, moved to Orange to take up a teaching role. When a permanent position arose at Mulwaree High, the couple moved to Goulburn.
“It’s the best decision we ever made,” he said.
Since doing so he has immersed himself in the community. He’s been involved in the Goulburn Musical Society, the former Argyle Society, was a founding member of the Rocky Hill Musical Society and has strong connections to the Goulburn Regional Conservatorium through the school and his own children’s involvement in programs. Mr Wood is also club captain for the Goulburn branch of the SSAA and leads the 5.30pm Sunday service at Saint Nicholas Anglican Church.
“It’s very easy to become a part of the community,” he said.
Now he’s preparing for a political challenge.
Mr Wood said it was up for debate whether the electorate could still be regarded as a safe Liberal one. He told The Post that major parties like his played a valuable role in holding the major parties to account.
“We intend to campaign hard and win people over,” he said.
“We have a great deal of supporters and people will join us along the way. We’ll start door knocking soon and we’ve already spoken to community groups and farmers.
“We see ourselves as fighting for the community. We’re trustworthy, independent, realistic about what can be achieved and we’re rural. We’re endeavoring to listen to the electorate.”
Mr Wood would not be drawn on whether current Coalition uncertainty about their Goulburn candidate could work in his party’s favour. He said the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers’ party policies would stand on their own merits.
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