Jodi McKay - Hunter's newest Minister

NEW State Tourism Minister and Minister for the Hunter Jodi McKay admits the NSW Government had previously ignored the region's local councils.

But after being sworn in yesterday as the first Newcastle MP in cabinet in 40 years, Ms McKay said building stronger ties with local governments in the Hunter would be one of her first priorities.

"We probably ignored local government up there and a lot of the communities, so we have to get back out there and talk to people," she said after her swearing-in in Sydney.

Ms McKay said she would probably make mistakes in the roles, saying she was "only human", but would work hard to help the region.

And her style would be very different from her predecessor, Michael Costa.

Ms McKay's elevation to Premier Nathan Rees's cabinet after just 18 months makes her one of the least experienced members of the executive, but she said she was undaunted.

"I will tell you I will make mistakes but I will work hard," she said.

Ms McKay said her time in politics had already provided a baptism of fire.

"The election I had was pretty horrendous," she said.

"It was a tough campaign and I learned a lot. I think the first couple of months when I came in I didn't really know what I was doing because you go from being a journalist where you don't have an opinion that you can share to needing to have a view and express it and to lead.

"But we have moved ahead on a lot of projects in Newcastle.

"We have seen some good results there we have the justice precinct project we have started. And we have a whole coastal management plan we're working on.

"I think what the Premier has indicated is he wants experience, he wants diversity of talent and expertise."

Hunter business and tourism leaders welcomed Ms McKay's promotion to the NSW Ministry, saying she was well placed to boost the region's profile.

Ms McKay was credited yesterday with helping land the 2007 Corroboree, which brought more than 170 American and Canadian travel agents to the region for a conference last September.

Hunter Regional Tourism Organisation chief executive Sheridan Ferrier said Ms McKay had lobbied again this year to help secure a conference of European delegates, which was still to be awarded.

"We're excited. She understands the region and has always been supportive of tourism," she said.

Hunter Business Chamber chief executive officer Peter Shinnick said Ms McKay's communication skills were a welcome asset.

"Now she will have to take an interest in the issues for the whole Hunter Valley," he said.

"Manufacturing, mining and construction are the three main drivers and we have not heard from her on those and we need her to voice a strong position and we need her strong support.

"She has been a strong supporter of business and there have been major issues we have worked on together.

"With the justice precinct for the CBD, for example, we have been impressed by the way she has been prepared to negotiate with business on an issue which could bring a lot of money to the city."

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