IN the wake of a leadership change rarely seen in NSW, which caused the state's two top leaders step down, the new Deputy Premier is eager to ensure the progress made in the bush does not slow down.
Bathurst MP Paul Toole was elected the NSW Nationals leader and sworn in as new Deputy Premier last week, gaining the leadership vacated by former Nats leader John Barilaro.
The Deputy Premier role is not the only one the former Bathurst mayor will be inheriting from his predecessor, as he was also named the Minister for Regional NSW as well as continuing with his existing folio as Regional Transport Minister, and they are two roles he feels are crucial to ensuring the bush doesn't get left behind.
"We are delivering in the roads and transport space to the tune of more than $9 billion in the regions this year alone, which is unprecedented but we want to keep delivering," Mr Toole told The Land.
"It's important we keep driving that investment into infrastructure, having good services, making regional NSW stronger and I think we are at a pivotal time because it has been a tough few years in the bush, but there is hope on the horizon.
"Our focus is making sure we roll up our sleeves and continue to unlock opportunities that are possible in the regions."
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Despite being among several existing Ministers to add extra responsibilities to their workload, Mr Toole would not be drawn on if and when a cabinet reshuffle could happen, or which Nationals MP may receive a call up into the cabinet.
"In the past week, we have seen a new Premier and Deputy Premier, so my focus is not about positions," he said.
"My focus is on getting regional communities buzzing again, getting kids back to school and businesses back to work, that's got to be the government's first priority.
"Instead of speculating, we are rolling up our sleeves and delivering on what we are actually elected to do.
"There is talk of a reshuffle, but that's a matter that will be discussed at a later date, for now our focus in on the roadmap to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic."
In regards to challenges facing the state's agriculture sector, Mr Toole believed an old foe could once again cause producers grief, while COVID-19-enforced border closures and labour shortages could also present issues.
"I think we need to be realistic that mice are still going to be an issue to deal with over the spring period and we are already seeing this, particularly in the state's north," he said.
"The government has about $150 million on the table to support bush communities and farmers, rebates for farmers, support for primary producers as well as small businesses, so I encourage people to take advantage of that support.
"Obviously, there's no doubt farmers are facing a critical labour shortage, which has been exasperated by the pandemic, so therefore, our government has more support available than any other state in the country.
"I think we need to find some innovative solutions including on-farm quarantining to deal with that and while that it is more of a federal responsibility, it is critical for farming activity in the state.
"The other issue is border restrictions, which are hurting productivity, and we want Queensland to come to the table and see sense because we need these contractors and alike to be able to carry out their work in both states, so while there are some issues, we are certainly working to help the bush keep progressing."
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