In recent months, after a long hiatus, Deniliquin has finally been on the radar of state and federal politicians.
It took a shake-up at the ballot box for Coalition members to realise they have a problem in this region.
The lack of attention has been highlighted by this newspaper many times and we are delighted to now see politicians realise that we actually exist in this part of the world.
In April we had the Premier and Deputy Premier in town, and on Friday it was Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack’s turn to learn why the Coalition was smashed at the ballot box in the NSW election, and did not win a local seat at last month’s federal poll.
Before those election results, many people tried to tell both The Nationals and the Liberals that more attention to the Southern Riverina region was needed. It largely fell on deaf ears.
In fact, as Mr McCormack acknowledged on Friday, it was the Pastoral Times which started the ball rolling for his first trip to Deniliquin since being elected the party’s federal parliamentary leader, and as a consequence the Deputy PM.
Mr McCormack was keynote speaker at the Country Press New South Wales annual conference in early March. Our former managing editor Garry Baker, who is immediate past president of CPNSW and represented our newspaper at the conference, had several opportunities that day to discuss local issues with Mr McCormack and made it abundantly clear that unless The Nationals recognised the stark reality that they have let this region down in recent times, the message was likely to be delivered quite clearly at the ballot box.
Unfortunately for the party which has represented us for so long, it took an amazing swing against it of nearly 27 per cent in the state seat of Murray to realise they had been deserted by their traditional base.
The recent visits by our state and national leaders have provided an opportunity for community advocacy groups — in particular Edward River Council and the Murray Regional Strategy Group — to highlight areas of concern.
All the leaders appear to have listened intently and have indicated they appreciate they need for action in key areas.
Now that our problems have been effectively articulated to these leaders, it is time they took positive steps to address the various concerns.
Hospital and education funding, support to establish a retirement village and changes to water policy need to be addressed quickly, not left until the next election cycle.