TAMWORTH councillor Mark Rodda has put his hand up to run as an independent candidate in the upcoming state election, vowing to give the people back their voice.
Cr Rodda, who is in his second term on Tamworth Regional Council, was a Nationals member for well over two decades, but left the party in 2015 after becoming disillusioned with a number of policy decisions that were “harmful to our rural community”.
“Ultimately, the good thing about being an independent is that I'm not beholden to party donors or vested interests, which these days seem to be more important to the party than the welfare of the electorate,” Cr Rodda said.
“I’ve got six little kids, and I look at their faces and think ‘I want a future for them’. I can see by some of the policy decisions that their future won’t be as bright if we continue going down this path.”
Cr Rodda says his disillusionment is shared by many around the electorate.
“I think governments are crazy sometimes – they don’t reward the loyalty of people who put them where they are, instead they take them for granted,” he said.
“They should be treating us with a bit more respect, and a bit more regard.”
Cr Rodda received the most primary votes in Tamworth’s 2016 local government elections, but admits he’ll have to raise his profile more in the region’s surrounding areas, such as Gunnedah, Werris Creek and Walcha.
“I’ll have a very grassroots sort of campaign – lots of door knocking,” he said.
Cr Rodda says his six years on council have served him well, and plans to take the same principle – listening to the people – with him to the state level.
“Being a councillor has taught me the skill of being objective and seeing things the way the ratepayer would,” he said.
“I think I have the ear of the little people, the left behinds and the forgotten. I try to put myself in their position.
“That’s what we’re there for, we’re representing the people.”
Cr Rodda joins three other candidates who have thrown their hat in the ring for the March 2019 election.
The Nationals have re-endorsed incumbent Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson, while Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party candidate Jeff Bacon has been on the campaign trail for the past five months.
Stephen Mears will fly the flag for Labor.
Cr Rodda admits he’ll have a tougher time campaigning than the other candidates without the backing of a major party.
“I have no illusions about how difficult it will be to win. But in an environment where uncertain reigns politically, I might get across the line.
“Recently, across the country, both at a state level and federal level, voters have shown they are willing to buck major parties in favour of an independent.”