Bat­tle for Mur­ray

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS -

A bat­tle royale is loom­ing for the mar­ginal seat of Mur­ray in a state gov­ern­ment elec­tion that is less than nine months away.

The Shoot­ers Fish­ers and Farm­ers’ Party fired the first cam­paign shots on Mon­day night, when its state par­lia­men­tary leader Robert Brown joined likely can­di­date He­len Dal­ton for a ‘meet and greet’ ses­sion in De­niliquin.

SFF re­fuses to an­nounce Mrs Dal­ton as its can­di­date, al­though this ap­pears a mere for­mal­ity af­ter she came close to top­pling The Na­tion­als’ Austin Evans in last Oc­to­ber’s Mur­ray by-elec­tion, which fol­lowed the res­ig­na­tion of long-time Na­tional Adrian Pic­coli.

Mean­while, Mr Evans still has to win pre­s­e­lec­tion for The Na­tion­als, which will be de­cided on Au­gust 18.

Nor­mally this would be a seam­less process, how­ever the Pas­toral Times is aware of com­mu­nity dis­quiet around what some be­lieve is a lack of ac­tion from Mr Evans since his elec­tion. Un­der his watch the De­niliquin Po­lice Sta­tion has been down- graded at the same time a new $18 mil­lion build­ing was be­ing fin­ished, and he has failed to get ac­tion on a pre-elec­tion prom­ise to re­ju­ve­nate the lo­cal tim­ber in­dus­try.

Af­ter her gath­er­ing with lo­cal res­i­dents on Mon­day night, Mrs Dal­ton said she had iden­ti­fied ar­eas which need to be ad­dressed. These in­clude more doc­tors with a broader skills range, in­vest­ment in De­niliquin Hos­pi­tal in­fra­struc­ture, an air­port ca­pa­ble of sus­tain­ing air freight ser­vices, ad­dress­ing mo­bile blackspots, waiv­ing Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Scheme fees for young pro­fes­sion­als start­ing their ca­reers in ru­ral ar­eas and in­creased ac­cess to com­mu­nity trans­port ser­vices.

De­scrib­ing her­self as the SFF “Mur­ray spokesper­son”, Mrs Dal­ton said the lon­gawaited re­turn of com­mer­cial tim­ber har­vest­ing to the Mur­ray Val­ley Na­tional Park and drought were also key dis­cus­sion points on Mon­day night, as was the Mur­rayDar­ling Basin Plan.

Af­ter some closed meet­ings on Mon­day, Mrs Dal­ton and Mr Brown met with a hand­ful of dis­trict land­hold­ers and vot­ers at the pub­lic fo­rum.

Mr Evans con­firmed yes­ter­day that he would be seek­ing re-elec­tion as Mem­ber for Mur­ray in March 2019, with the first step be­ing pre-se­lec­tion in Hay on Au­gust 18.

‘‘I have en­joyed the last nine months, al­though it has been busy, with a lot of time spent on the road my new car has just clocked over 40,000 kilo­me­tres since Novem­ber.

‘‘I’ve been work­ing on a num­ber of things with peo­ple, and I am happy and en­thu­si­as­tic to keep do­ing that.’’

Go­ing into the next elec­tion, Mr Evans said the top pri­or­i­ties are ‘‘all the same things’’ he went into last year’s by-elec­tion with.

‘‘There’s the red gum, im­prove­ment in wa­ter man­age­ment and the Basin Plan, its sus­tain­able di­ver­sion lim­its and the need for more trans­parency.

‘‘There’s also the bull bars is­sue and there’s also the Grif­fith Hos­pi­tal, not that it has much bear­ing on De­niliquin specif­i­cal- ly, but we also need im­prove­ments in health in gen­eral across the elec­torate.

‘‘We (the NSW Gov­ern­ment) did some work on the De­niliquin re­nal unit, but there are other things that need to be ad­dressed.

‘‘De­niliquin has a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem with doc­tors, and we’re work­ing with the federal and state gov­ern­ments on how we can im­prove doc­tor num­bers.

‘‘This is on­go­ing, and no doubt will stretch out beyond the elec­tion.’’

Mr Evans said re-elec­tion would also give him more time to meet his by-elec­tion prom­ise to have com­mer­cial tim­ber har­vest­ing in the Mur­ray Val­ley Na­tional Park, al­though he said ‘‘hope­fully that will be done be­fore the elec­tion’’.

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