“The Nats are committed to Barwon. The Nats, for the record, are not going anywhere,” said NSW Nationals Upper House MP Sam Farraway in Wee Waa last week.
The Nationals MP was on a trip through the region visiting Maules Creek, Boggabri, Wee Waa and Narrabri.
“I’m out on the ground listening and communicating and having dialogue with local government, elected representatives and councils, business chambers, community groups but also obviously constituents including a lot of farming constituents,” he said.
Mr Farraway replaced former Member of the Legislative Council and Nationals Deputy Leader Niall Blair who resigned from the NSW Parliament in October last year.
“My background is small business,” said Mr Farraway.
“I ran our family company – we had trucking, we had civil earthworks and we had vehicle leasing and rental businesses for about 30 years.
“I was also actually a Senate candidate for the Federal Election and that was an experience and a big learning curve for me.
“I was the President of the Royal Bathurst Show for 10 years, up until last year, before I went into parliament so I know what community engagement and involvement is like.”
Mr Farraway lives in Bathurst but has been clocking up plenty of miles since entering the NSW Parliament.
“So my constituency is the whole state but as part of the government and as part of the National Party I have been given the responsibility to be a government representative and the Duty MLC, which is our party term, for the seat of Orange and for the seat of Barwon.”
The regional NSW seats of Orange and Barwon were once held by the Nationals but are now held by the Shooters Fishers and Farmers party.
SSF representative and Member for Barwon Roy Butler made history in March last year when he won the seat of Barwon from the Nationals, but Mr Farraway’s visit is another indication his party wants Barwon back.
“Well, Barwon has been held by the National Party and formerly the Country Party for a long time.
“I have a great relationship with John Barilaro to put it in context, and John Barilaro has spent a fair bit of time through the Boggabri, Maules Creek, Narrabri, Wee Waa region and he wants to have someone on the ground here that can be his eyes and ears because as Deputy Premier he can’t be here all the time.
“He thinks that it’s absolutely imperative someone is relaying the messages of what is important for this electorate.
“The reality is that just because Barwon may not be held by the government doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve government representation, and that’s why I’m here.”
During his three-day visit, community members raised and discussed a number of issues with Mr Farraway including the hot topics of mining and water.
“I’ve been on multiple farms right across the broader Narrabri region, I have spoken to a lot of business owners, I attended the NSW Farmers Meeting in Narrabri.
“We’ve discussed gas, we’ve discussed mine extensions, we’ve discussed the coexistence of the two major industries in this region in agriculture and in mining.”
The Santos Narrabri Gas Project is still in the final stages of assessment but in January, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she anticipated a decision would be made in the first half of this year.
“You’ve got to put it into context, there are two major industries – you have gas and you have agriculture, they must coexist and big organisations, with any type of related mining must be good corporate citizens.
“The point I would make though is that the NSW Government and the state as a whole have taken the approach that the concerns around any type of mining have to be adhered to in the assessment stage.
“They have to be acknowledged and if it is to happen, I believe NSW would have some of the most rigid and rigorous regulations,” said Mr Farraway.
He said, “The region could be on the cusp of some huge economic potential.”
“It’s just all about getting the balance right.”
Mr Farraway also visited a farm at Merah North and met with irrigators there.
“The irrigators conduct with me has been brilliant.
“I have feedback from the last couple of days and I’ll certainly be sharing that with the Minister.”
In response to a question about the Murray Darling Basin Plan and whether he supported the Plan and thought it was working, Mr Farraway said,” I won’t go down that path.”
“What I would say is, it is so important to have people on the ground actually seeing it with their own eyes and to take that message back,” he told the The Courier
“It’s important that the Minister is getting on the ground feedback and that’s what I’m doing.”
“In terms of the messaging, it needs to come from the Minister.”
Mr Farraway also splashed some cash with a series of funding announcements for the region. (See front page)
The Member for Barwon Roy Butler has welcomed the flow of money into his electorate.
“For many years now, the Government has underinvested in our regional communities.
“I welcome the investment they’re now making and look forward to hearing about local trades and councils undertaking the work, investing back into the community.
“When we support local business, they support our community groups, which is a win for everyone.
“The NSW Liberal-National Government is in arrears billions of dollars in its legislated payments of Restart NSW funds to communities in rural and regional NSW.
“This failure of the Government over successive years, years when the former Member for Barwon was in Government and a Cabinet Minister is laid out on the table in the Audit Office of NSW Report on State Finances.
“This report detailed the fact that the Government has only directed 19.6 per cent of Restart NSW funds to rural and regional infrastructure projects since the fund’s inception in 2011, meaning the city has received a whopping 80.4 per cent of the fund.
“The National Liberal Government owe rural and regional NSW $1,186,019,328.00 in unpaid Restart NSW funds. This money would provide much needed infrastructure and in the process would provide job opportunities and boost local economies,” said Mr Butler.
“The NSW Nationals held the seat of Barwon for 69 years, they had ample opportunity then to ensure that Barwon communities were well funded and supported by Government. But they didn’t.
“I welcome Sam visiting Barwon, the same as I welcome any Minister visiting the electorate.
“The more people in NSW Parliament who know what’s happening in the west, and can advocate for people in regional and rural communities the better,” said Mr Butler.To order photos from this page click here