Nationals keep the seat of Cootamundra

Steph Cooke with former Member for Cootamundra, Katrina Hodgkinson.

The seat of Cootamundra has been retained by the Nationals in this weekend’s by-election, but with a swing of 20 per cent against them in the once safe seat, it’s not all good news for the government.

Tumbarumba’s Save Our Shire group travelled to Young for their ‘Put the Nationals Last’ campaign, a punishment against the party for supporting forced council mergers, with representatives from other merged councils travelling to other towns in the electorate.

Save Our Shire spokesperson Neil Hamilton said that in spite of the election loss, they were “in short, feeling really good.”

“We showed very, very clearly that forced mergers are still a major issue in the bush, there is absolutely no doubt that if they don’t address the forced mergers issue we are going to take them down at the next election.

“We showed that in every booth in a merged council area, we were able to get a swing of over 20 per cent. In some booths, like Gundagai, it was 40 per cent. SOS President Lucy Henderson added that there’s no doubt the 20 Tumbarumba residents who travelled to Young to campaign gave their all.

“I’m so proud of the Tumbarumba community; they really pulled above their weight on the weekend,” she said.

“They worked all day, and they were so enthusiastic about getting the message across, and it really showed the community that we’re trying to save.”

The Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party and Labor split the opposition to the Nationals, taking up a quarter of the votes each. The new member for our neighbouring electorate is now Steph Cooke, a florist with stores in Cootamundra, Young, and Temora. She was also the Executive Director of the Baking Industry Association of NSW.

After growing up in Temora going to high school there, Ms Cooke had a brief career in Sydney working in marketing for multi-national companies, before moving back to her hometown to start Native Botanicals – a NSW Florist of the Year winning store.

As for Save Our Shire, they have no plans to give up the fight for a demerged Tumut and Tumbarumba.

“The next thing we’ll be doing is fighting a petition under the Local Government Act which will force the minister to hold an inquiry into the merger,” said Mr Hamilton.

“[NSW Nationals leader and Deputy Premier John] Barilaro’s failure to address this, and his platitudes that just keep on coming out, that are just so irrelevant, and dismissive, to the people in the bush, show that this government is completely out of touch.”