By JACINTA BOLSENBROEK
KATANNING cropping and sheep farmer and businessman Peter Rundle will contest the new electorate of Roe for the Nationals WA, as its leadership made a strong pitch it would protect the Royalties for Regions program from the "metro-centric" main parties.
At the Nationals WA State council meeting on Saturday, party leader Terry Redman announced its new team to represent regional WA at the next election, due by March 2017.
"I'm delighted to announce the first round of candidates who will seek to champion regional WA and safeguard the future of Royalties for Regions in State Parliament," Mr Redman said.
He reiterated the Nationals' role as an independent political party heading into the State election and said only the Nationals WA could safeguard Royalties for Regions' future.
"In recent weeks, both major parties have come out saying they would like to see Royalties for Regions changed so that it can fund roads in Albany or fix broken promises in Carnarvon,'' Mr Redman said.
"Only the WA Nationals can ensure that Royalties for Regions continues to deliver the best outcomes for regional WA and doesn't become watered down or diluted by the metro-centric major parties."
Mr Rundle was preselected for Roe after Wagin MP Terry "Tuck" Waldron announced he would retire at the 2017 election.
Mr Waldron's Wagin electorate and neighbouring Eyre have been merged in a redistribution to become Roe, with the resulting loss of one rural seat and an additional metropolitan seat.
"It will be very hard to fill his shoes," Mr Rundle said of Mr Waldron.
"He has been a fantastic member, so I hope to fill his shoes to some extent."
Mr Redman said the redistribution outcome was bad news for country voters.
"The loss of a regional seat quite simply means regional residents will face an uphill battle to have their voices heard in State Parliament,'' Mr Redman said.
"That's why it's more important than ever to vote for the only party dedicated to growing and developing regional WA."
Mr Rundle said the the size of the new electorate would present a challenge, but that he was keen to attend as many local events and meet with as many people as possible.
"The new electorate is two and a half sizes bigger than Switzerland - so it's going to be hard work," he said.
"We are going to put the hard work into the whole electorate, with a big focus on Esperance and Ravensthorpe, to make sure the people of that area get to meet us."
Mr Rundle has a farming background and as chairman of the Great Southern Development Commission for more than five years was involved in the Royalties for Regions program.
He appreciates the initiative and understands the issues regional community members face.
"I have been farming for more than 20 years, I am born and bred in Katanning and have been involved in many projects down here," Mr Rundle said.
Mr Rundle said he was motivated to contest the seat to make a difference.
"I want to continue the good work the WA Nationals have been doing and make a difference to the region," he said.
"I think the Royalties for Regions program has made a massive difference to the lives of so many regional people in WA.
"I'd hope to get into Parliament and ensure that legislation stays in place."
Mr Rundle said he understood the importance of retaining people living and working in the country.
"It's not like I've been parachuted in from elsewhere," he said.
"I want to make sure we keep doing what we can to help people stay in the regions.
"We need to ensure we have a vibrant region for people to stay in.
"I have a strong interest in regional education and am aware of the issues facing communities, such as Esperance and Ravensthorpe."
Mr Redman said a strong, independent, and passionate team had been assembled to represent the best interests of regional families, businesses and communities.
"We have assembled an excellent team of local champions and we look forward to a State election campaign that puts regional issues front and centre," he said.
Former federal MP and Goldfields local Tony Crook will stand in Kalgoorlie, as incumbent Kalgoorlie MP Wendy Duncan is retiring at the election.
Incumbents who are recontesting include Warren-Blackwood MP Terry Redman, North West Central MP Vincent Catania and Pilbara MP Brendon Grylls.
Pre-selection for the remaining regional Legislative Assembly and Legislative Council seats and the federal seats of O'Connor, Durack, Forrest and Pearce is set to take place on April 30 and May 1.
Nominations for all remaining State and federal seats remains open.