Four candidates vie for upper house

The bid to become the new Nationals member in the state’s upper house will be a four-candidate contest.

The Nationals have endorsed Bairnsdale pharmacist Tim Shelton, community relations worker Kate Lancaster, Gippsland Water general manager Nicole Griffin and secondary school teacher Melina Bath as preselected nominees for the seat of Eastern Victoria.

A successful candidate will be decided by an internal Nationals vote on 28 March, following the resignation of sitting member Danny O’Brien, who was elected to the lower house seat of Gippsland South at the weekend.

Mr Shelton told The Express he had considered entering politics for many years and believed now was the right time.

The father of five said he joined the party in the last couple of months.

“I think they’ll have a look at my business history, my personal history and hopefully decide I’m capable and confident,” Mr Shelton said.

“While Gippsland is an incredibly rich and lucky area, I don’t think it’s always front of mind when it comes to Spring Street.

“We have a lot of untapped resources in tourism, eco tourism and development in primary producing.”

Mr Shelton, who sits on the medications advisory board of Bairnsdale Regional Health, said he believed further investment was needed in regional health and local transport links were inadequate.

Ms Griffin said she nominated for the opportunity to “give back and make sure there’s a strong voice for regional Victoria”.

“I have a lot of experience in agriculture, I’ve had international experience and my skill set is around strategic thinking and policy development that supports regional Australia and campaigning to make sure we meet the needs of the local community,” she said.

Ms Griffin was born in New South Wales and studied at the Hawkesbury Agricultural College.

She has worked in the cotton industry, owned two small businesses, worked for a global business overseas and owns a mixed farming property in NSW.

The mother of two said she recently became a member of the Nationals, and was a member of the Young Nationals in her early 20s.

She is currently the general manager of business development at Gippsland Water.

“I love the Gippsland area, we were in Singapore before here and chose to live in Gippsland for everything it has to offer,” she said.

South Gippsland resident Ms Bath said she was passionate about country Victoria and its people.

“I’ve lived here most of my life and have been a supporter of the Nationals since my Melbourne University days many years ago,” Ms Bath said.

“There’s a due process to elect a representative and that will take place on 28 March and I’m really looking forward to let that process unfold.”

Ms Lancaster was a media advisor to former Deputy Premier Peter Ryan and is the vice-president of the Latrobe Valley branch of The Nationals.

The former journalist and Traralgon mother of two nominated for party preselection last year following the resignation of longstanding MP Peter Hall, but narrowly lost to Mr O’Brien.

Nationals State Director Jenny Hammett said the party was “delighted with the calibre of candidates”.

“We are very confident in the ability of each of them to represent the region with distinction,” Ms Hammett said.