As we emerge from lockdown, we must embrace this time as a new beginning for our state and welcome the opportunity it presents for a refresh.
I have decided now is the right time for me to hand the reins over to new leadership and resign as Deputy Premier of NSW.
Serving as Deputy Premier of NSW, as Leader of the NSW Nationals, and as the Member for Monaro has been the honour and privilege of a lifetime.
As the Member for Monaro some of my proudest moments include delivering five new schools; Jerrabomberra, Googong, Bungendore, Jindabyne and the School for Special Purpose co-located at Karabar.
The iconic Snowy Mountains Brumby was saved when I legislated the Kosciusko Wild Horses Heritage Bill 2018 and we will continue to find a balance between protecting the Brumbies and protecting the most sensitive wilderness areas of the Park through the Kosciusko Plan of Management.
Not to mention the exciting Special Activation Precinct for Jindabyne and the Mountains, which means we will see the Snowies gain even more popularity as a year-round tourism destination.
However it is the little things, and the beautiful people I’ve met, of whom I now call friends, that have made being the Local Member so special. Nothing is closer to my heart than the big hug and smile I received from Rosie Schenker when I delivered a renal unit at Cooma Hospital, so she no longer had to make long trips to Canberra.
To the people of Monaro, thank you for this honour.
In my time as Deputy Premier I experienced first-hand, alongside the communities of NSW, the effects of prolonged drought, the worst bushfires in living memory, severe storm and flood disasters and a 1-in-100-year global pandemic, and it was a privilege to work with our communities to endure and recover from those challenges.
I hope those communities could see my genuine and tireless effort to be there for them, especially as the Minister responsible for Disaster Recovery, a role I will never forget. I shared hugs, shed tears and brought hope for many.
My number one focus has always been to make regional NSW the best place to live, work, play and raise a family and to achieve that I proudly delivered the $4.2 billion Snowy Hydro Legacy Fund, the $2 billion Regional Growth Fund and the transformational Special Activation Precincts. These are record investments, which bring a sense of pride back into our towns.
To make sure regional communities are always at the heart of decision making in government, the Department of Regional NSW was born, and so too was the NSW Government’s Regionalisation Strategy which has herald a new era for the NSW Public Service in the bush.
The Future of Coal Statement and the Future of Gas Statement have given regional communities certainty around land use and job security, which NSW has craved for a generation, finding a balance between agriculture, the environment and the resource industry.
We thought 2020 was challenging, and then 2021 kept those challenges coming, but throughout these times, the resilience shown by the people of NSW has been truly inspiring.
I was entrusted by the Premier, as an original member of the COVID Crisis Committee, to be the architect of the roadmap out of lock down in both 2020 and 2021, and it was a responsibility that I did not take lightly, but I considered essential, to deliver hope and certainty not just for NSW, but for the Nation.
I have worked with three of the Liberal Party’s hardest working Premiers in Barry O’Farrell, Mike Baird and particularly Gladys Berejiklian who steered this state through some of its darkest days.
The next Premier has big shoes to fill, but I wish them well and the best of luck, I will be cheering from the sidelines and I am excited for what is ahead under their stewardship.
My deepest and genuine gratitude goes to my NSW Nationals, our grassroots members, and particularly my Nationals colleagues who I have served alongside, for entrusting me to lead the Party and ensure our communities were heard.
People are sometimes quick to write off The Nationals, but it’s the Nats in Government who are, and always will be, the praetorian guard of common sense.
Nationals Leaders have led that guard, and I am proud to be in their company. Now I am passing on that honour.
Finally, thank you to my family for allowing me to have such an incredible opportunity and for their sacrifice.
I will be calling a Party Room meeting for this Wednesday 6 October where I will formally resign as Leader and call for a ballot for a new Leader.
Following that, I will work with the Speaker and the Electoral Commission in relation to a by-election for the seat of Monaro.
Thank you and farewell.