Glen Innes Mayor Carol Sparks hits back at 'insensitive' comments by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack

National Party leader, Michael McCormack with Carol Sparks (inset). Picture: Elesa Kurtz
National Party leader, Michael McCormack with Carol Sparks (inset). Picture: Elesa Kurtz

Mayor Carol Sparks has criticised remarks by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack, saying his comments slamming greens as "inner-city raving lunatics" were insensitive and even discriminatory.

The Nationals leader told ABC Radio National on Monday morning that bringing up climate change was politicising the tragedy.

He condemned "any bloody greenie" who bought up climate change while the fires are still burning as a "bloody disgrace".

"What people need now is a little bit of sympathy and understanding and real assistance, they need help, they need shelter," Mr McCormack said.

"They don't need the ravings of some pure enlightened and woke capital city greenies at this time when they are trying to save their homes."

The Glen Innes Severn Mayor lost her home of 40 years in Wytaliba's fierce and fatal blaze in the NSW Northern Tablelands on Friday.

She mentioned climate change in interviews over the weekend, and described herself as "a victim of climate change".

Wytaliba resident David Pieters photographed and filmed the burning town as he walked out during Friday afternoon's blaze.

Wytaliba resident David Pieters photographed and filmed the burning town as he walked out during Friday afternoon's blaze.

"Climate change is not political; climate change is a science fact," she said.

"I think Michael McCormack needed to pay a bit more attention to his science teacher at school."

Mayor Sparks said it was wrong to assume "greenies" only live in the inner city; she is a Greens member, and was elected to Glen Innes Severn Council as an endorsed Greens candidate.

She said his remarks were not directed at her or Wytaliba, but still reflect hurtful stereotypes about the tight-knit alternative community.

"We've had this sort of discrimination and disrespect before.

"That's a problem in society, that lack of respect for each other.

"Assumptions always cause problems. Really it's a matter of respecting each other and caring for each other and most Wytalibans do that."

The community has long faced stereotyping and prejudice, she said, but the community has contributed its fair share to the Glen Innes area since the village was established as a commune in the 1970s.

Mayor Carol Sparks.

Mayor Carol Sparks.

Wytaliba village was badly damaged in the weekend's bushfires, with about 60 houses lost and two dead, in an unprecedented inferno that also killed a person near Taree.

The Wytaliba school was also partly destroyed, with the town bridge now impassable.

Wytaliba resident David Pieters also lost his home. He filmed and photographed the burning town while walking out of it during Friday's blaze.

He said he was sick of stereotypes about his community.

"That is not just here; this attitude is all over the planet. You have people in the wealthy west laying s**t like that on people in India or China - that's where racism comes from," he said.

"If we keep going like this even the wealthiest, smartest people are going to cop it; it's only a matter of time before the whole show goes down."

Mid Coast mayor Claire Pontin echoed Councilor Sparks' comments, telling the ABC she felt "cranky" when she heard the Deputy Prime Minister Mr McCormack's remarks.

"They need to get out and have a real look at what's happening to this country," Ms Pontin said.

"We've not had situations like that. Fifty years ago, this would never happen."

Ms Pontin agreed that climate change is beyond politics. It's essential to consider the issue when planning a bushfire response, she said.

This story Deputy PM should have 'paid more attention to his science teacher' first appeared on Glen Innes Examiner.