Snowy Valleys Councillor Julia Ham will be the Liberal Party’s candidate in the upcoming by-election for the state seat of Wagga.
The Oberne Creek farmer beat out three other pre-selection hopefuls, Snowy Valleys deputy mayor John Larter, former party staffer Sarah Lawrance and Australia Army officer Stephanie Roe.
The Times understands Ms Ham attracted 18 of the 31 votes from members of the two Wagga branches of the Liberal Party that met on Saturday to decide the party’s candidate.
Ms Roe and Ms Lawrance shared 11 votes between them, leaving Mr Larter as the least-favoured candidate.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian congratulated Ms Ham on getting a strong endorsement from the Liberal Party as their candidate for the seat of Wagga.
“Wagga Wagga is the largest inland city in NSW and as a government we want to keep delivering for this community,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“I know as a local born and bred Wagga girl she’ll be a strong community advocate.”
Ms Ham was elected to Snowy Valleys Council last September. The early childhood educator and mother of three was born near Wagga and grew up in the city.
She joins Labor candidate Dan Hayes and Independent Paul Funnell in the race for Wagga, with voters set to go to the polls on September 8.
The Shooters and Fishers Party is expected to run a candidate, as is The Greens, while more independent candidates are also expected to join the battle.
Snowy Valleys mayor James Hayes congratulated Ms Ham on her selection to the Liberal Party candidacy.
“Julia has been a very capable councillor in the short period since being elected. I’m sure she’ll be a very good candidate,” Mr Hayes said.
“She knows the region, having grown up in Wagga, and being a Snowy Valleys councillor she’s aware of the issues in our part of the electorate.”
Mr Hayes said the council would use the by-election to advocate for funding for projects in the Snowy Valleys, around health, education and recreation.
“Bringing funding forward for a new Tumut Hospital is a priority,” Mr Hayes said. “I’m hopefully there’ll be some good news on that front.”
He also hoped school infrastructure at Franklin and Tumut High would be addressed.
Both schools use demountables, and Tumut High has been identified as requiring extensive maintenance funding, with a backlog of more than a million dollars of works.
“We’ve seen upgrades at Tumut Public and Gadara. It would be nice to see Tumut High and Franklin school infrastructure brought into the 21st century,” Mr Hayes said.
The mayor would also like to see the council push for a planned multi-million dollar indoor sports centre facility.
Currently still in the planning phase, the project would involve indoor basketball courts, an indoor pool and other sporting facilities, at the Bull Paddock.
“It’s important we have the facilities to keep people in the region, whether that be health, education or recreational,” Mr Hayes said.
Julia Ham says she’ll continue as a councillor of Snowy Valleys until the next local government election.
“I have been entrusted by the voters as their representative on the council, and will continue to do so until the next council election,” she said.
If she continues on the Snowy Valleys Council, it would avoid a by-election less than a year into the term of the council.
In a statement to the Times, Ms Ham said she aimed to be strong advocate for services and infrastructure for the community.
“As someone who’s been firmly focused on giving back to my community, as a long-term volunteer for my local RFS Brigade and Snowy Valleys Councillor, the opportunity to represent this community as a member of Gladys Berejiklian’s team would be a dream,” Ms Ham said.
“I am not taking a single vote for granted, and will be working really hard through to the election day on September 8 to show that I will be a very strong voice for our community.
“I will be travelling all over the region to listen to people across our community, learning more about their needs, and asking the community to support me in making this place even better.”
Ms Ham said she was delighted and excited to be chosen by the Liberal Party members as the candidate for Wagga Wagga.
“I was absolutely humbled by the support and trust that the local Party Members have placed in me,” she said.
“If elected, I will continue to serve the Snowy Valley community, and make sure that it continues to benefit from the government’s hard work.
“The only way to ensure that there’s a strong advocate for our region’s needs in the Berejiklian Government is to vote Liberal for me on September 8.”