Richmond Valley Council, Peter Neilsen, Bentley, Independent
Tell us about where you live and your family.
My wife and I have lived in the house we built ourselves on our farm at Bentley since 2003, the land bought from our dear friends George and Laurel Ball, who are sadly no longer with us. Having been a farmer all my life: dairy, orchards, macadamias, bananas and coffee, we appreciate the importance of working with the environment and being good stewards of the land.
Now semi-retired, we are breeding Angus x limousin cattle and regenerating the natural bush.
Peter has not been a councillor before.
What do you bring to the role of councillor this election?
Willingness to listen… to community and to science. Experience gained through working in regional communities has shown me the importance of listening to the experts and learning about opportunities for sustainable solutions to the many challenges now facing us.
We as primary producers have much to contribute.
Like sustainable regenerative agricultural techniques which draw lost carbon back into our soils, improving fertility, enabling water retention and increasing the profitability of the land.
It’s important that any developments or projects for the Richmond Valley don’t compromise or undermine our existing industries such as agriculture & tourism, which are of huge importance now and into the future.
What brings you joy in life?
Living in this outstandingly beautiful and productive Richmond Valley area with its unique, iconic wildlife. Working to ensure these places are protected for our children so that all future generations can enjoy.
What difficulties does your community face?
Our community faces a push by some who have a ‘development at all cost mentality’ with no understanding and little regard for damage to the environment or established industries.
This poses a threat to our community and care needs to be taken to prevent industries that can cause damage to water catchment and exposure to toxic pollution.
A genuine primary producer has a duty of care to the land ‑ the next generation demands it.
Our young people are under tremendous pressure from worry about covid and what kind of future they will inherit with climate change.
What is your job? What do you like/dislike about it?
I have been a farmer all my life so seeing the effects of climate change with often too high temperatures and drought, is very disturbing when we have a serious lack of adequate action by our leaders. We have a carbon emissions problem, a challenge we must recognize and act upon. The first sector to be affected will be our farming communities and consequently the food we produce.
Dare to dream – what is your vision for your region?
I would like to see the natural gifts of our region recognised and utilised for their full potential. Agriculture and tourism are a natural fit.
My vision is to see this productive coastal farmland valued and protected. It has the potential to be of prime importance as a food bowl.
I would like to see tourism play a major part in this area. Our beautiful unspoilt beaches and coastal heathland are the jewel in the crown. Forests are home to unique wildlife, so valued by tourists from all over the world as well as domestic.
We have an obligation not to compromise the habitat of these iconic species. Forests are identified as one of the most effective means of carbon capture and storage, so essential to assist with our efforts to prevent further climate change. Both healthy farmland and forests will be our most sought after assets in the future.