NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the Liberal party is not taking the Wagga byelection for granted.
Ms Berejiklian was in Wagga after a ballot on Saturday decided on Snowy Valleys councillor Julia Ham as the Liberals’ candidate for the September 8 contest.
Ms Ham beat three others candidates – Snowy Valleys deputy mayor and paramedic John Larter, former electorate staffer Sarah Lawrance, and Australian Army officer Stephanie Roe – to win her party’s nomination.
“I am thrilled with Julia. I know she will do an amazing job, but I also know our work’s cut out for us,” Ms Berejiklian told The Daily Advertiser.
“I don’t take this seat for granted at all.
“We know we’ll have to work our guts out and I just want everyone to know that.”
Ms Berejiklian has thrown her support behind her newly announced candidate.
“I need her on my team because I have confidence she will be able to ring me every day and every night to to let me know what her community needs,” the Premier said.
"And that’s what I need. I need someone that I can trust on the ground that will have regular contact with me to let me know what needs to happen because we’ve worked really hard to get a strong budget and good economy.
“Our opportunity now is to deliver for the community like has never happened before and I need someone who’s advice I can take on a daily basis to make sure we deliver.
“Julia is an outstanding candidate. I couldn’t be happier.”
Speaking after the vote, Ms Ham conceded that she did not have a high profile in the Wagga electorate, but did consider herself well known.
Ms Ham, 54, lives on a merino farm in the Tarcutta district.
Born and raised at Brucedale, Ms Ham was first elected as a councillor in September last year, and was known as a long-serving member of her local Rural Fire Service prior to that and is on the Tarcutta Landcare Group.
She also serves on the advisory board for the Parish Preschool Committee in Wagga and the Creative Arts Advisory Board Committee for the Board of Studies NSW.
After raising three children, Ms Ham said she understands the challenges faced by local families in a regional community.
“A life in Wagga is a recipe for the good life, and I will be asking the community to support me in making it even better,” she said.
“I do have a lot of life experience.”
She nominated education and health – particularly the finalisation of the Wagga Base Hospital redevelopment – as areas of particular interest.
Upgrading of the Tumut hospital and “infrastructure and services for rural areas” were also priorities, Ms Ham said.
“Being a teacher, I really want to look at education and infrastructure and what we’re doing,” she said.
She also raised the possible regional benefits of the mooted Snowy Hydro 2.0 project.
“Snowy Hydro 2.0 is $5b project. We need to be part of that here in Wagga,” Ms Ham said.
“Wagga needs the financial spin-off from that.”
The byelection has been called after the resignation of Daryl Maguire, who had held Wagga for almost two decades.
NSW Labor has already announced Dan Hayes as its candidate, with Wagga councillor Paul Funnell throwing his hat into the byelection ring as an independent.
The Greens and Shooters parties are still expected to announce candidates.