Two weeks after the National Party was spectacularly swept from the Orange electorate, the party’s state leader John Barilaro returned to survey the damage.
Mr Barilaro stepped in to replace Troy Grant following his resignation after the Orange byelection.
He’ll be joined by Nationals deputy leader Niall Blair as they meet with representatives of councils and constituents on Thursday and Friday.
“The first decision was to come back to Orange, to engage and listen and understand what went wrong,” Mr Barilaro
“For those communities in Molong and Cabonne, there’s no question, local government mergers and amalgamations has been the issue and I’m not going to pretend that wasn’t the case,” Mr Barilaro said.
“In other parts of the electorate, there are other issues.
“To talk about reversal or non-reversal is not what I’m here about, I’m actually here to listen first and find out about all the issues, local government is just one, but I’m here to engage.”
Mr Barilaro said he was only visiting Orange but would be meeting with representatives from Cabonne Council as well as greyhound breeders.
Millions of dollars worth of projects and funding were pledged to the Orange electorate during the byelection campaign and Mr Barilaro said those commitments would be funded.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on is when we say we’re going to do something, we do it,” he said.
“We will continue to serve this community as the Liberal and Nationals Government, as we have done for the past five years.”
When it came to the Orange Health Service’s car park, Mr Barilaro said the “timeline would be laid out in the future, but we’re committed to it”.
“We’ll be supporting the hospital and the community of Orange.”
Mr Barilaro said he would be visiting Orange again before the next election.
“This is not the final visit, this is the first visit,” he said.
“We accept the decision of the community here, where they’ve elected Phil Donato as their member of parliament but what we’re going to do now is work hard to engage and earn the trust that we believe we’ve lost so that we can take the challenge back to the election of 2019.
“A message has been sent to the party and the government, we’ll respond, the first step is listening and engaging.”