By JOHN DOOLEY

WHEN National Party Member for Murray Adrian Picoli announced his decision to leave politics a few weeks ago, it set the stage for a by-election showdown in the New South Wales rural seat.

The date for the by-election is Saturday, October 14, and candidates who will contest the seat are lining up ready for what will no doubt be a hard fought campaign.

The National Party announced this week that former Murrumbidgee Shire Mayor, Austin Evans, had been chosen as their candidate for the seat of Murray.

NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro, welcomed the pre-selection of Mr Evans, and said his wealth of experience made him a strong local candidate for the upcoming by-election.

“He proved to our party members in Murray last weekend that he’s the right person to represent the people of this electorate,” he said.

“Austin is ready to hit the ground running and to campaign on local issues, to ensure the NSW Nationals continue to deliver in government.”

In his first media conference since winning the pre-selection, Mr Evans said: “I’ve lived my life around service delivery and that’s what I’m offering for Murray, to work really hard to deliver things to them on the ground.”

Griffith farmer and former independent candidate, Helen Dalton, PICTURED, is running as the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party (SFFP) candidate.

The SFFP will be hoping to cause a shock upset just as they did in the Orange by-election in 2016, which they won from the National Party.

Ms Dalton has been a strong voice on issues surrounding water policy and won 18 percent of the vote at the last State election.

Already she has hit back at National Party water policy in the Murray region, citing inexperience and alleging back-room deals as the reason for recent Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) decisions.

In a SFFP press release, Ms Dalton said: “On Monday, September 11, our community was shocked to find out that the MDBA together with the Liberal-Nationals are planning to invoke a provision in Murray Darling Basin Plan that would take an extra 450 gigalitres from the Murray region.

“This volume equates to about half of Burrinjuck Dam, and if taken, would have devastating social, economic and environmental impacts on our community.”

Country Labor have announced that its candidate is long-time Leeton resident, Michael Kidd.

Mr Kidd has lived in Leeton for more than 35 years, and has served for more than nine years on Leeton Shire Council.

He currently works as a radiographer for Leeton Health Service, and is a member of the Leeton Local Health Advisory Committee.

“As a radiographer, I’ve seen how the cuts from the Liberals and Nationals in Sydney have impacted our local community, particularly when it comes to our local health services,”       Mr Kidd said.

“Murray needs someone who understands the local area, and who will fight against the privatisation of regional hospitals and cuts to local health services.”

Mr Kidd also said the community needed someone who will fight for more local jobs and stop cuts to TAFE.

“It’s time we sent the Berejiklian Government and those Nationals up in Sydney a message,” he said.

“Only Country Labor will keep our hospitals in public hands and secure funding for regional health services.”

It is expected that Greens, other minor parties and some independents, will also join the field of candidates for the October 14 by-election, one which promises to be anything but dull.