Action to improve rail services, water security for the region and further upgrades to our hospital.
These issues will be some of the primary campaign focuses for Peter Schwarz, who has been unveiled as the Nationals candidate for the seat of Shepparton, some seven months out from the November 24 state election.
Mr Schwarz, who was one of three nominations in a community preselection contest, won 52.9per cent of the vote on Saturday after the allocation of preferences.
Mr Schwarz, a grain and sheep farmer, had been up against glazier Peter Shields, of Dookie, and stay-at-home father Daniel Watson.
It was the first time in Victoria that such an initiative had been run, and 720 people cast their vote at six polling booths across Shepparton, Mooroopna, Tatura, Numurkah and Nathalia.
Speaking to The News at Shepparton’s Victoria Park Lake yesterday, Mr Schwarz described the community preselection as a ‘‘great concept’’ and ‘‘incredibly democratic’’.
He identified rail as one of the key issues leading up to the election.
‘‘We’ve seen a lot of rhetoric about what (government) is going to do, and we actually haven’t seen anything happen yet,’’ he said.
‘‘My daughter is here at school in Shepparton, and one of the things her and her friends say is they do want to see the train service (improve).
‘‘They don’t all have cars and licences they don’t want to drive to Melbourne, so that generation does want to use the train, but they don’t want to use it at 5.30 in the morning or 6.10 in the morning.’’
Mr Schwarz noted a recent Committee for Greater Shepparton report on the city’s rail services compared to other regional Victorian centres, that highlighted decades of inaction on the Shepparton line.
He said he wanted to see an ‘‘equivalent share’’ to other regional cities in the state, and believed Shepparton should have 10 return services per day.
While noting upgrades to Goulburn Valley Health hospital, he said more needed to be done.
Mr Schwarz said oncology was a major issue, and that at the polling booths on Saturday, several people spoke to him about their need to travel to Albury, Bendigo or Melbourne for treatment they could not receive in Shepparton.
‘‘Other regional hospitals have had enormous upgrades, so let’s commit to it and get started here,’’ he said.
He also pointed to water security as a critical discussion point for the region.
‘‘Being a farmer and irrigator, we’ve got to stop the water drain,’’ he said.
‘‘We can’t afford to have more water taken out of the district.’’
Mr Schwarz grew up in Shepparton, attending Wilmot Rd Primary School and Shepparton High School.
After working in other states and overseas, he has lived for 23 years with his wife Catherine and family on an irrigation property north of Shepparton.
Mr Schwarz has had senior roles in agricultural leadership at local, state and federal level, and is a former Nationals state president.
Nationals leader Peter Walsh said the community preselection initiative had been a valuable exercise, and had worked to re-engage voters.
Last month, State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed declared she would run again for the seat at the November election.
Ms Sheed secured the electorate in 2014, in a seat that the Nationals had owned for 47 years.
Shepparton businesswoman and community advocate Cheryl Hammer will contest the seat for the Liberal Party.
Ms Hammer works as the chief executive for the Sir Andrew and Lady Fairley Foundation, and was previously the chief executive of the Community Fund Goulburn Valley.
She will be the first Liberal candidate to contest the seat of Shepparton since 2006.