Soon-to-be elected Murrumbidgee Council councillor Austin Evans has announced he is eyeing the seat of Murray following Adrian Piccoli’s resignation at the weekend.
He will seek pre-selection endorsement from The Nationals to replace the local member at a by-election, for which a date is still to be set.
Mr Evans will be automatically elected to Murrumbidgee Council this month, to represent Murrumbidgee East ward which only received the minimum three nominations.
If successful in gaining pre-selection for Murray, Mr Evans said government policy would allow him to carry out both roles simultaneously for a portion of his term as councillor.
‘‘Eventually, council would be a councillor short (if I am successful),’’ Mr Evans said.
‘‘The legislation we operate under was changed a number of years ago to allow a two year transition period where you can be both a councillor and a Member of Parliament.
‘‘So that gives plenty of time to work out what’s going on and to do it in a careful and considered manner if required.
‘‘I won’t be standing down before the council is formed on September 21.
‘‘Given that I don’t know if I’ll be pre-selected for the National Party, I’ll just stay on council for the time being,’’ Mr Evans said.
To concentrate on gaining the state role, Mr Evans has confirmed he will not be nominating as mayor of the newly formed Murrumbidgee Council.
He has instead endorsed former Jerilderie Shire mayor Ruth McRae for the top job.
‘‘I think Ruth would make a good mayor.
‘‘There were some things I would really like to have dealt with in the Murrumbidgee council but if I don’t get through pre-selection then I’ll be still here as a councillor doing what I can for Murrumbidgee.’’
Speaking to the Southern Riverina News on Monday, Mr Piccoli said he had accepted a full-time job at the University of NSW.
He said while he will no longer be in Parliament, he reaffirmed his commitment to assisting the local community with politically based issues, including the push to have commercial timber harvesting returned to the Murray Valley National Park.
‘‘They’ve been badly done by as an industry and I would like to do what I can to help the industry get back to what it was 100 years ago.’’
Mr Piccoli’s new role will see him work to improve academic outcomes for Australian students, particularly those in rural areas.
The former education minister said he had been considering leaving politics since he was dropped from cabinet in January.
‘‘I apologise for causing the by-election because it is inconvenient, but I hope people understand I am putting my family ahead of my job for the first time in a long time. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to keep my deep involvement in education policy and research,’’ he said.
Mr Evans said he was not surprised by Mr Piccoli’s retirement, but said it was not expected until the 2019 state election.
‘‘There was a general vibe that Adrian was going to retire at the next election so his early announcement has come as quite a shock.
‘‘It’s really lousy timing, there’s no question of that.
‘‘But with these opportunities, you don’t get to choose when they happen,’’ Mr Evans said.
The Southern Riverina News believes two members of The Nationals’ Deniliquin branch will also be seeking pre-selection for the Murray seat — the branch chair David Landini and his vice chair Perin Davey.
Previous Member for Murray challenger and Griffith resident Brian Mills also confirmed he will stand as an independent,
The Shooters Fishers and Farmers Party, which took the previously safe seat of Orange from The Nationals in a by-election last year, has confirmed it will stand a candidate.