Fear rural seats are too big

The NSW Nationals suggest a 'Murray-Darling' seat


Will rural MPs be an endangered species in years to come?

The NSW National Party has proposed the seat of Murray be replaced by a new 'Murray-Darling' electorate to more equally distribute land mass. However, there are 933km between Tibooburra and Berrigan, both in the proposed seat.

The NSW National Party has proposed the seat of Murray be replaced by a new 'Murray-Darling' electorate to more equally distribute land mass. However, there are 933km between Tibooburra and Berrigan, both in the proposed seat.

The NSW Nationals Party has suggested that the seat of Murray be abolished, replaced by a new Murray-Darling electorate that will include local government areas from Narrandera in the Riverina, to Broken Hill in the Far West.

It also put forward a redrawing of the Barwon electorate, which would see Griffith share a local member with Bourke and Narrabri.

In its submission the NSW Nationals said these changes would more equally proportion the land mass, rather than have one electorate, Barwon, covering more than a third of the state.

The suggestions were part of the Nationals' submission to the NSW Electoral Commission, which reviews the electoral boundaries after every second NSW general election to ensure the population within a district remains approximately the same over time.

The Nationals proposal was rejected outright by the Narrandera Shire Council, currently part of the Cootamundra electorate, which argued there was no connection between Narrandera shire residents and those in Far Western NSW.

Mayor Neville Kschenka said another concern was how manageable the large area would be for the local member, with 754 kilometres between Narrandera and Broken Hill.

"Currently we have Nationals MP Steph Cooke as our local member for Cootamundra, and she does a great job but is already run off her feet getting around our electorate," Cr Kschenka said.

Broken Hill mayor, Darriea Turley AM agreed, and said although Broken Hill was at the far end of the current Barwon seat, the councils had an affinity with more remote communities and communities along the Darling.

Both the Murray and Barwon seats were lost by the National Party to the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers last election and Cr Turley, who was the Labor candidate for Barwon, questioned why the Nationals' were putting forward this proposal.

"Are they considering how they regain the seat or are they considering the constituents that live within the seat?," Cr Turley said.

"Broken Hill has been in Barwon since 2007 and I think the community needs continuity."

Does redistribution of electorates based on population need to be reviewed?

Cr Turley also argued that the process of redistributing electorates based on population, without considering the land mass, did not support the realities of conflicting communities and their priorities.

In the same vein, Narrandera Shire Council have put forward a motion to the Local Government Association (LGNSW) annual conference, asking that the process be reviewed.

The council, arguing that if on average one electorate evaporated from regional NSW every five years, in 40 years' time, there would be only one electorate west of the Great Dividing Range.

"Something needs to happen in the way things are structured, we can't continue to try and have the same amount of people in each electorate," Cr Kschenka said.

"If our electorates become bigger and we have less rural members in parliament, our percentage of representation will be reduced dramatically."

Nationals state director Joe Lundy agreed that regional seats were far too big, pointing to the current size of the Barwon electorate, which the party insists should be redrawn.

"Even with existing boundaries, it is difficult to find communities of interest between towns that are so far apart," Mr Lundy said.

"To suggest, for example, that Broken Hill and Narrabri have significant community links (both are currently in Barwon) is absurd.

"Anyone in the Sydney electorate of Coogee could walk to their local MP's office in under an hour. Broken Hill to Narrabri is a ten hour drive on a good day."

He said the NSW Nationals absolutely recognised the need for a long-term solution to this issue - be that more seats in Parliament or accepting regional seats might have less people than metropolitan seats.

A draft of changes to the electorates is expected to be released by the NSW Electoral Commission by November.


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