THE new Country Party has its first candidate for the NSW Upper House in the election in March.
Ron Pike was a National Party member for the last 10 years. But after hitting a brick wall with the Nationals on water policy he jumped ship and joined the new party set up by Peter Mailler in December.
The Country Party is still unregistered, but Mr Pike said for the Legislative Council (Upper House), a group can still register a ticket to run.
Mr Pike is a retired irrigator from the Murrumbidgee area and was a Central Councillor with the Nationals. Water policy reform, at both state and federal level, was his chief goal in politics.
"Under this NSW Government 2,000,000 ML of both surface and ground water has been removed from productive agricultural use," Mr Pike said.
"This has resulted in a loss of economic activity in regional NSW of $4 billion with job losses of 16,000," he said citing figures from NSW Irrigators.
This loss was "unnecessary and unacceptable", Mr Pike said.
Cost recovery methods of NSW water sharing plans place force farmers to pay yearly water delivery fees, from $25,000 to $45,000 regardless of water availability, he said.
Mr Pike said Nationals failure to fulfil its promise to scrap the Native Vegetation Act had caused widespread dissatisfaction with the party in rural areas.
"Rather than being the Party that supports regional NSW, the Nationals have become the Party that supports and grows green bureaucracies and fosters political careers, oblivious to the effects on the people they are supposed to be representing.
"I blame the National Party culture for this failure, but there are still some good MPs within their ranks and it has been a difficult decision to quit, particularly in consideration of my friendship and ongoing personal support for the member for Coffs Harbour, Andrew Fraser."
"After careful consideration though, I believe the Country Party of Australia offers the best political solution for rural and regional NSW and I have decided to join the new Party because my loyalty lies with rural and regional people first." Mr Pike said.
He was one of the first farmers to take up land at Coleambally and in 1961 was the first farmer to use water from the Snowy Scheme.
In the decades since, Mr Pike engaged in political lobbying on water policy, before finally joining the National Party when he retired to Coffs Harbour about 10 years ago.
Mr Mailler said the Country Party was proud to endorse Mr Pike.
"The Country Party is being populated by a lot of disaffected Nats and it is telling that an active member like Mr Pike shares our profound frustration. "The Country Party is committed to real political reform and real political representation.
"While we are still a small organisation, candidates like Ron Pike will have real political bite."
Mr Mailler said the new party would endorse independent candidates and run a Country Party branded campaign for the upcoming NSW election, since the party itself was not officially registered yet.
"The management committee discussed the NSW election and determined that it would be useful to increase the pressure on the incumbents by contesting the election.
"The Party brand will add weight to the push for a more responsive Government to deliver better outcomes in the NSW electorate.
"At the same time, it is important that the decision to run is not frivolous and that we endorse candidates with capacity and credibility, who are also genuinely prepared to win."