Farm Forestry Producers to Benefit from $28 Million Funding Boost

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke has welcomed the NSW Government’s $28 million investment to bolster support for the region’s Farm Forestry producers.  

The $28 million package will provide a funding boost to Local Land Services’ Farm Forestry Program to enhance on-ground education, training and support local producers to drive innovation and promote best practice.  

Ms Cooke said Farm Forestry plays a key role in the local economy and this investment demonstrates the NSW Government’s commitment to the sector.  

“This is a milestone investment for our state’s farm forestry sector, and local producers will benefit greatly,” Ms Cooke said.   

“Producers will have greater access to the expert advice they need to improve the management of their forests, which will help them to sustainably grow their operations.” 

Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW Paul Toole said the funding boost follows the introduction of new Farm Forestry Codes of Practice earlier this year and provides increased support to farmers through enhanced education and training. 

“This investment will fund a suite of programs and partnerships to facilitate and expand the development of the State’s sustainable Farm Forestry industry,” Mr Toole said. 

“This is the largest investment in Farm Forestry in more than a decade, and it reflects the increasingly important role it will play in supporting our sustainable timber industry.” 

Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders said the package will provide farmers with practical advice and support services to ensure forestry becomes a central part of on-farm planning. 

“Farmers manage their forests for multiple values, by producing the goods and environmental services we all rely on,” Mr Saunders said.  

“This investment will ensure farmers have the information they need to improve productivity and environmental outcomes on our Farm Forests for themselves and the whole community.”  

Learn more about Farm Forestry at

Planning for the Single-Use Plastics Ban

The ban on lightweight plastic bags will officially come into force from 1 June, in line with the first stage of the NSW Government’s single-use plastics ban.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said that consumer awareness and readiness are key to seeing the implementation of this ban going as smoothly as possible.

“Banning lightweight plastic bags on 1 June means we have to think ahead before heading to the shops and local retailers and make sure we always have our reusable shopping bags on us,” Ms Cooke said.

“This plastic bag ban is a move to reduce our impact on the environment and I hope to see all local retailers and residents embracing the changes.

“As we know, it’s the little changes that can make all the difference.”

Minister for Environment James Griffin said all of us can see the impact plastic pollution is having on our environment, which is why these major changes to plastic use are needed.

“Single-use plastic is used by many of us for just a few convenient minutes, but it remains in our environment for many years, eventually breaking into microplastics,” Mr Griffin said.

“We know that single-use plastic items and packaging make up 60 per cent of all litter in NSW. By stopping the supply of problematic plastic in the first place, we’re helping prevent it from entering our environment as litter, or going into landfill.”

In addition to the lightweight plastic bag ban from 1 June, from November the NSW Government is banning:

  • single-use plastic straws, stirrers, cutlery, plates, bowls and cotton buds
  • expanded polystyrene food ware and cups
  • rinse-off personal care products containing plastic microbeads.

The NSW Government passed the Plastic Reduction and Circular Economy Act 2021 in November, and introduced the Plastics Action Plan last year.

To ensure small businesses are ready for the changes this year, the NSW Government engaged the National Retail Association (NRA) to deliver a comprehensive education campaign to more than 40,000 businesses across NSW.

The NRA is running a retailer education campaign, conducting store visits, and providing online webinars and resources to help businesses make the transition away from problematic single-use plastics.

The NRA has launched a free hotline (1800 844 946) to offer businesses, community organisations and consumers advice on the single-use plastic bans.

For more information about the NSW plastics ban, visit

Prince Alfred Bridge Memorial Concept Unveiled for Community Feedback

The NSW Government has released a recommended proposal to memorialise the much-loved Prince Alfred Bridge in Gundagai, with members of the Gundagai community invited to provide feedback on the designs.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said the proposal was developed following the assessment of the over 140 ideas put forward by Gundagai residents in September last year.

“The proposal recommends a memorial using salvaged timber, wire sculptures, historic photos and information, and technology to remember the bridge,” Ms Cooke said.

“The memorial concept aims to commemorate the bridge’s heritage, cultural and social significance while creating a new tourism site for Gundagai.”

“I strongly encourage Gundagai residents to provide feedback on the design to ensure it accurately reflects the massive role the Prince Alfred Bridge once played in the community.”

The memorial concept has been developed by consultant heritage architects Conrad Gargett in a Heritage Landscape Interpretation Strategy commissioned by the NSW Government.

Minister for Lands and Water Kevin Anderson said the NSW Government is investing in Gundagai community by establishing this historic memorial.

“A big part of why people visit country towns like Gundagai is for the historic charm and that is why the NSW Government has committed to this memorial for the Prince Alfred Bridge,” Mr Anderson said.

“This will give people another reason to visit Gundagai, bringing money into the community and in turn creating valuable jobs.”

The recommended memorial would include features at the north end of the former bridge site off Sheridan Street as part of the Gundagai Heritage Walk, which would direct visitors to a second memorial site located on the floodplain.

It would include:

· A public viewing area off Sheridan Street. Timber gates made from salvaged timber would create a viewing point to a floating wire art sculpture that creates a 3D visual impression of the former bridge, looking toward a reinstated bridge trestle on the floodplain. Rustic seating would be provided using salvaged timber from the former bridge.

· An information panel at the viewing area with bridge photos, residents’ quotes, and a QR code to more online photos, information and a fly-through augmented reality experience recreating sights and sounds of the former bridge.

· Visitor access will be improved to the viewing area with car parking spaces, pedestrian crossings, line markings, bollards created from salvaged timber, and tourist signage.

· The reinstated bridge trestle on the floodplain at O.I. Bell Drive would feature a second elevated wire sculpture recreating motor vehicles crossing the bridge, a second information panel, a deconstructed timber deck at ground level, and more rustic timber seating.

Community feedback on the concept can be made online from Tuesday 17 May until Tuesday 31 May, or in person on Tuesday 17 May at Gundagai’s Foodworks and Woolworths (10.30-11am), Gundagai Services Club and Gundagai Library (12-1pm), or Gundagai Public School and Gundagai High School from (3-3.30pm). Once the community consultation period ends feedback will be assessed and the concept finalised. For further information and to provide feedback, please visit: Prince Alfred Bridge Memorial.

Lachlan Valley Railway Heritage Centre Opens New Entrance Building

After years of setbacks and COVID-19 delays, thanks to grants provided by the NSW State Government, the Lachlan Valley Railway Heritage Centre have been able to cut the ribbon and unveil their new entrance and display building.

Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke is delighted to have been there for the celebration of this opening and said this funding was important in keeping the centre in peak condition.

“The Lachlan Valley Railway Heritage Centre in Cowra draws in crowds of hundreds of visitors each year, contributing to the flourishing tourism sector in Cowra,” Ms Cooke said.

“The team of passionate volunteers at the centre have worked tirelessly and shown real dedication and love in all they have done to enhance this space and grow its capabilities as a tourist destination.”

Mr Ian Cameron, Manager at the Lachlan Valley Railway Heritage Centre said he was very excited at the unveiling of this long-term project.

“What started its life as a storage shed has undergone a magical transformation and become a grand building with displays, souvenirs and even refreshments for guests.” Mr Cameron said.

“After having been postponed due to Covid-19, to be able get together for the opening of this building at our museum has been incredible, it brings joy to see visitors able to walk through and appreciate this new building.”

Further to the funding that has built the new entrance building, Lachlan Valley Railway Heritage Centre has successfully obtained a further grant of $19,690 from The Community Building Partnership Program which will go towards building a 5-metre by 15-metre extension to the existing entrance and display building.

The Lachlan Valley Railway Heritage Centre is not just a museum, but an interactive experience and a functional facility where maintenance and restoration works are carried out. It is widely considered and promoted as Cowra’s most significant industrial heritage site.