Tenterfield’s mayor Peter Petty will be juggling his local government duties with campaigning at the state level after being named in the final three candidates put forth for National Party preselection for the Lismore seat, to replace retiring Thomas George.
The field of seven starters was whittled down to three at a meeting of around 75 party members in Lismore on September 16, with each candidate given an opportunity to state their case. All four branches in the electorate were represented, with a good roll-up of members from Tenterfield, according to Mr Petty.
Candidates were queried on their party affiliation but also their thoughts on the electorate. Mr Petty said he spoke of the diversity of the electorate spanning the remote outreaches of the Beardy River through to the more urban Murwillumbah and Lismore.
He addressed the need to encourage and support small business, and strategies for tackling the energy crisis in the North Coast. He said the region holds great potential to generate clean power through wind, solar or hydro means.
He acknowledged the importance of tourism to the area, and the need to maintain a strong police presence.
He also expressed his support for the current Coalition state government.
“They’re turning it around in their second term,” he said.
“We’re in a better-than-sound financial position, and that’s seeing money being spent in regional areas, on roads and infrastructure. I’d be proud to be the voice of Lismore in Sydney.”
He praised the ongoing investment in health services at the Lismore, Murwillumbah and Bonalbo hospitals, while conceding that resident doctors would be the ideal in outlying areas.
After the votes were counted Mr Petty said he was surprised and pleased to find himself among the final three. The other two finalists – Austin Curtin and Andrew Gordon – are both Lismore-based, and Mr Petty said of the three he’s the only one with local government experience.
As a ‘Bonalbo boy’ Mr Petty said he is well-acquainted with the North Coast, having played all his sport in Casino and Lismore and worked around the Clarence River area.
He said Mr George has been generous in including the candidates in his appointments to allow them to familiarise themselves with aspects of the electorate and to make contacts, and to allow the voting public to get to know them.
“There are lots of areas to cover, and I’m really looking forward to that,” Mr Petty said.
For the first time in this electorate, everyone on the electoral roll (not just National Party members) get a say in who the final candidate will be, thanks to the ‘community’ pre-selection method.
All will have the opportunity to vote for their preferred candidate on November 18, with polling places at Murwillumbah, Lismore, Kyogle, Bonalbo and the Tenterfield School of Arts. Voting is not compulsory, but Mr Petty said it raises awareness and gets the candidate’s profile out in public.
To help voters make their selection, the Tenterfield Chamber of Tourism, Industry and Business is hosting a meet-the-candidates evening on October 26 at the new Our Place Wine & Espresso Bar (next to Mitre 10), with all three contenders present.
With the Lismore base holding 50 per cent of the voting power, Mr Petty said he is hoping to champion the cause of smaller populations.
“I’m village born-and-bred, and I know how important villages are. They should have a voice.”
With his mayoral term continuing to September next year and state elections not due until March 2019, Mr Petty said he will be seeking a balance between his mayoral duties and campaigning up to the September 18 vote, and beyond should his bid for preselection be successful.
“My mayoral responsibilities are the top priority, but I just have to make it work,” he said.
“I was honoured to be nominated by the Tenterfield Branch, and I’ll work as hard as I can to repay that support. To be in the final three is an honour and a surprise.”
Mr Petty rates his chances of a win as ‘a rough outsider’, but he said he won’t die wondering.
“I’ll give it a red-hot go,” he said.