With Labor candidate Bryce Wilson officially conceding the by-election, Nichole Overall appears set to become the new Member for Monaro.
Monaro was seen as a safe seat for the Nationals after former Deputy Premier John Barilaro represented the region for nearly 11 years; however, that didn’t take away from Ms Overall’s pride as it became increasingly likely the victory was hers.
“It’s amazing, quite exciting and a little bit surreal, if I’m honest. I was so focused on just getting to 6 pm on polling day and wasn’t looking beyond that, but it’s tremendous to know the support and backing that I’ve had throughout the last four months. It’s wonderful,” said Ms Overall.
While the result won’t be officially declared until the final postal votes are counted on 24 February, she’s promised to be out every day in the community. Ms Overall hopes she will be remembered as an MP who was “all about service to the community”.
“Being a person who gets on with the job. I’m not shy of hard work, commitment and dedication, and making sure that my communities are looked after to the very best of my ability and in their best interests,” she said.
Housing affordability was one of the most common issues raised across the electorate throughout her four-month campaign. She declared that there were several “pretty exciting things” in the works for Monaro, including the recent announcement of a Crown Lands release outside of Cooma.
“I was with Deputy Premier Paul Toole just last week where an amazing joint initiative between Crown Lands, the NSW Aboriginal Land Council, the Housing and Land Corp, coming together for this joint initiative just outside Cooma where up to 140 lots are going to be released,” she said.
“It is going to take in single dwellings, social and affordable housing. They’re getting on with the planning and design of that later this year and hoping to have the first up and ready by mid next year.
“Things like that are going to definitely relieve the pressure on our communities,” she said.
Other notables projects include $15 million going towards health worker accommodation in Cooma and $10 million for the police station and accommodation facilities in Jindabyne.
Speaking on the highly contentious location of the Bungendore High School, Ms Overall said it was disappointing that an investment worth more than $50 million to Bungendore could create so much angst.
“It’s such a wonderful thing to see that has been called for for so long. Rather than listening to some views that are expressed rather stridently through social media over the last four months … I’m happy to say that I am and will continue to back the majority of the community, and that’s been expressed this weekend because I did win the Bungendore polling booth on the day.
“I will be continuing to back them into not just receiving the high school but everything else that’s going to be gained as part of this proposal, which includes a brand new community library, a community centre, new council facilities, the sports hub out there at Bungendore which has a brand new pool, and to see Abbeyfield continue to be developed as well,” she said.
Another school project within her electorate that has drawn some criticism from within the community is the proposed school in Googong. Critics believe the school as currently planned will be too small by the time first classes begin. But Ms Overall said that the Department of Education has experts in the field who understand the growth levels in the Googong region and are accounting for that in their planning.
“It’s not as though they’re going to do something that five minutes down the track isn’t going to suit what they know full well are some of the fastest-growing communities in this region and sometimes even the wider state.
“These are the things that are still being addressed, will be worked through and made sure that the best possible outcome for the communities is put forward, and that’s what I’m backing.”
When discussing how she plans to manage the varying demands of her electorate, which ranges from the outskirts of Canberra in Queanbeyan to the Snowy Mountains, Ms Overall says her focus is getting on the ground and being present within the community.