THE CO-FOUNDER of a group rallying support for viable candidates to contest Nationals-held Federal and State seats says he'd welcome the chance to meet residents on the Mid North Coast.
Rohan Boehm said ‘Anyone But Nats’ is running a series of community forums in key electorates including Armidale, Tamworth, Gunnedah, Narrabri and Broken Hill.
Mr Boehm, who contested the State seat of Barwon in 2015, confirmed an interest in establishing a footprint on the coastal fringe.
"We are giving people the chance to have a conversation; to give people the idea that they can really do quite a lot to change their long term prospects," he said.
"We would be very happy to engage with local people and to show them that there is a different type of open conversation possible about their regions and their politics.
"For one, climate and the lack of climate action by the Nationals and the degree to which the Nats have a handbrake on the economy.
"For them to promote themselves as a political party is really quite wrong," he said.
However, local Nationals have said residents had only to look at what has actually been delivered on the coast – such as funding for a new Macksville Hospital and the building of the new Pacific Highway – to assess the party’s effectiveness.
Mr Boehm claimed Anyone But Nats’ community forums would give residents a chance to be heard.
"Normally the meet the candidates-type events are pretty well staged and nobody gets to talk and ask their questions,” he said.
"They are mainly there for the politicians to promote their wares. This is just another form of dominating the landscape and the airwaves.
"Already we have found that people across the State are really wanting to engage in discussions that are really important to their communities."
Already we have found that people across the state are really wanting to engage in discussions that are really important to their communities.Rohan Boehm
Mr Boehm described most pre-selected Nationals candidates as "nodders" and "non-effective politicians who are effectively filling up the space".
"They basically turn up every four years or so and hand out funds to keep communities and groups quiet," he added.
But Mr Boehm's comments have drawn a strong reaction from Federal MP Luke Hartsuyker.
The soon-to-retire member, who was re-elected six times in Cowper, says the Nationals would contest the next Federal election on its merits.
"Just look at the runs on the board, at State and Federal level," Mr Hartsuyker said.
"You can now almost drive from Sydney to Grafton on a divided dual carriageway, while funding is now ready for the Coffs Harbour Bypass.
"For those on the New England, the inland rail was championed by Barnaby Joyce.
"You have Dr David Gillespie delivering for the electorate of Lyne while at the State level, and the Nats' Leslie Williams and Melinda Pavey have been delivering in spades for their electorates.
"The Nats have delivered massive investment in health infrastructure while we have delivered record levels in investment."
Mr Hartsuyker said there can hardly be a claim that the Nationals' have not delivered.
He pointed to the 700 either constructed or planned mobile phone towers under the mobile phone black spot program as further evidence of the work carried out by the Nationals.
"The Nats have a great story to tell. I've been through six elections and from time to time groups come up that are never for anything, and always against something.
The Nats have a great story to tell. I've been through six elections and from time to time groups come up that are never for anything, and always against something.Luke Hartsuyker
"So a group that doesn't stand for anything has zero credibility."
He said the Nationals' candidate for Cowper Patrick Conaghan was born in Kempsey, worked as a policeman in his home town and went on to a successful career as a lawyer.
"Someone of Pat's calibre will be well placed to take the concerns of the electorate to Canberra," Mr Hartsuyker said.
The Federal election will be held in the first half of this year.