MEMBER for Murrumbidgee Adrian Piccoli will have to fight off unprecedented competiton from within his own party before next year's state election.
Helen Dalton from Binya and David Landini from Wakool, roughly 300 kilometres from Griffith by road, have both declared they will challenge for Nationals pre-selection for the new seat of Murray.
Mr Piccoli decided a month ago to represent Murray as it incorporated his hometown of Griffith, rather than the region's other newly formed seat, Cootamundra, which spans from Barrellan to Cowra.
Mrs Dalton and Mr Landini have since been nominated by the Leeton and Deniliquin Nationals branches to challenge the NSW minister for education at a vote among Nationals members in Hay on May 24.
As the NSW Farmers Association Griffith Branch president, Helen Dalton will campaign hard on agricultural issues, which she said the state Coalition government had taken too long to address.
“Rural and regional Australia has been forgotten in the last few years, yet farmers still add a lot to the GDP and we deserve better, especially when it comes to red and green tape, truth in labelling, road infrastructure and a better deal for students going away to school and university,” Mrs Dalton said.
“The change in electoral boundaries is a good opportunity to change the status quo, which is why there’s two challengers.
“Of course it’s daunting running against Adrian Piccoli because he has strong support, but it’s healthy for the region for others to put their hands up and it’s our democratic right.”
Mr Landini’s deep-seated concerns about the government’s water and timber policies spurred him into action.
“We’ve seen disastrous removal of a massive amount of water out of MIA and Murray Irrigation Area for no benefit to the local economies or environment,” Mr Landini said.
“To take water out translates into a continual loss of jobs and prosperity, so I’m not going to limit how much water I want back, I want plenty.”
“The drift of youth away from the electorate due to lack of job opportunities is very worrying, I have six children myself and I want to create an environment where kids can get good employment when they leave school.”
Mr Piccoli confirmed he would campaign against his two contenders for his spot on the Murray ticket.
“There’s no head office interference in pre-selection so anyone can put their hand up, which makes for a vigorous democratic process,” Mr Piccoli said.
“I’ll be communicating to members of the National party urging them to support me in the pre-selections, particularly given I am a senior member in the government, what I have done as a local member and what I’ve done as the minister for education.”