Liberal candidate getting to know Wollondilly

The man who hopes to be the next Wollondilly MP has officially kicked off his campaign ahead of the March state election.

Liberal candidate Nathaniel Smith held his first press conference in front of local media in Tahmoor today.

The former San Souci resident has the backing of outgoing Wollondilly Liberal MP Jai Rowell.

Mr Smith said he had been hitting the streets to learn what issues mattered to locals.

But it was clear from his responses to media questions that he had a lot more to learn.

The former planning minister staffer addressed criticism that he had been parachuted into the Wollondilly candidate role from San Souci.

“I have been speaking to locals every day,” he said.

“As my father said to me one day, ‘if you are going to run for this seat then their issues need to become your issues’.

“I want to fight for them and I want to continue Jai’s great work.”

Mr Smith, who moved to the Southern Highlands after winning preselection in June, said he wanted to raise his family in the area.

“We love this area and we want to bring our family up in a salt of the Earth, warm, safe community and Wollondilly is that community,” he said.

“I’ll be gauging what is important to locals when I speak to them every day.

“This is a huge electorate. There are many towns and villages and each town has different issues.”

Mr Smith has vowed to fight for the interests of small business owners.

“Some of the other major issues are infrastructure, open space and obviously local character,” he said.

“I want to work with Wingecarribee and Wollondilly councils to preserve the local character.”

When pressed on which specific local issues he would be championing, Mr Smith did not provide more detail other than to say he would fight for more funding for hospitals, schools and kerb and guttering.

Then Mr Rowell jumped in to say he would provide Mr Smith with a long list of priority projects to follow up on.

When speaking to the Advertiser, Mr Smith said he would campaign for the electrification of the Southern Highlands rail line.

“I would like to see more train services,” he said. “I will fight for electrification as well as look out other options such as having commuter hubs.”

Mr Smith was ambivalent when asked if he supported the community’s fight to protect vital koala habitat.

Community concern about preserving the local koala population has culminated in more than 13,000 people signing a council petition.

When asked whether he believed the decision to rezone the Wilton South East Precinct was right – given the council’s strong concerns the future development would decimate a local koala corridor –  he said “the planning minister has made his decision.”

“I will work with local government to get it right,” Mr Smith said.

However, he offered no solutions as to how koala corridor preservation would be achieved.

Instead Mr Rowell implied further announcements regarding koala preservation were expected.

Mr Smith said he had spoken to several dairy farmers in the region and backed the state government’s widely criticised drought relief loan initiative.

He acknowledged the great efforts of the Dilly Drought Drive but stopped short off saying he would lobby for additional financial support for farmers, despite Mr Rowell’s recent commitment to fight for more drought relief funding.

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