Forced mergers: Katrina Hodgkinson could face independent candidate at next state election

UNDER FIRE: Gundagai businessman John Knight has vowed to end Cootamundra MP Katrina Hodgkinson's political career over forced mergers.

UNDER FIRE: Gundagai businessman John Knight has vowed to end Cootamundra MP Katrina Hodgkinson's political career over forced mergers.

DISGRUNTLED Riverina communities are pooling cash in a bid to overthrow a sitting Nationals MP over forced council mergers, The Daily Advertiser can reveal.

A group of ex-Nationals members are scouring the region for a strong independent candidate who can depose long-serving parliamentarian Katrina Hodgkinson in a “history-making” move similar to the rise of maverick MPs Tony Windsor and Bob Katter.

Gundagai businessman John Knight – who is a former member of the Nationals’ state executive – declared the party’s stance on forced council mergers as the “ultimate betrayal” of the bush.

“The two-party system in this part of the state is broke,” Mr Knight said.

“And the feeling right across the Cootamundra electorate is that Katrina Hodgkinson and the Nationals have badly let us down. 

“This is the first major issue she has faced in 17 years and she has utterly failed.

“The government thinks we’ll forget about this before the next election and they can roll over and have their bellies scratched. 

“No, we’re not going to let that happen. Katrina Hodgkinson can have an early retirement as far as we’re concerned.”

Threats are ‘hot air’: MP

STANDING FIRM: Gundagai businessman John Knight.

STANDING FIRM: Gundagai businessman John Knight.

Ms Hodgkinson hit back at Mr Knight’s outburst as "hot air” driven by personal ambition.

“When we were in Gundagai for the ratepayers’ meeting there was no attempt made by (Mr Knight) to contact me or my office,” she said. 

“I see this entire exercise as one driven by self-interest and not at the heart of the community.”

Ms Hodgkinson said she had “always” backed her councils and taken up the fight to the local government minister.

“Most councils have said this entire process had been of benefit to them,” she said. “They’ve gone through a thorough assessment of their finances and see where they’re headed.” 

Mr Knight said the MP had been dragged “kicking and screaming” to support councils.

“if Gundagai is forced to merge, it will kill this community,” he said.

Ms Hodgkinson has previously had two motions of no confidence moved against her in Gundagai and Cootamundra.

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