THE last remaining member of the NSW Coalition’s 2011 Hunter team is set to walk away from politics, leaving the region without a single government MP to recontest their seat.
Robyn Parker has announced she will not stand again for Maitland at the general state election in March next year.
She told the Newcastle Herald there was ‘‘no one factor’’ for the decision, but that she could not commit to serving a full term.
‘‘I’ve been thinking about this for some time,’’ she said. ‘‘I had the motivation to continue on, but four years is a long time.’’
Ms Parker was the only Liberal MP from the Hunter to emerge unscathed from the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s inquiry into illegal political donations and had already been endorsed as its 2015 candidate.
As it stands, Swansea MP Garry Edwards and Port Stephens MP Craig Baumann are on the crossbench, after being exiled by the Liberal party over revelations at the Independent Commission Against Corruption about developer donations to their campaigns.
Andrew Cornwell and Tim Owen resigned as MPs for Charlestown and Newcastle over admissions they accepted illegal donations, forcing byelections on October 25.
And long-serving Upper Hunter Nationals MP George Souris, who was not involved in the inquiry, has announced he will retire.
Ms Parker said she had discussed whether she would recontest her seat with Premier Mike Baird in recent weeks but declined to repeat his advice.
She said her decision did not relate to being dropped as Environment Minister from cabinet this year.
‘‘The first and foremost thing for me was to represent the community,’’ she said.
But she is known to have expressed to supporters her hurt at the decision.
Of the ICAC inquiry, she said: ‘‘There’s no doubt, in the Hunter, the past few months have been difficult.
‘‘I’ve be saddened ... people made mistakes but there was an overriding determination to get the region moving,’’ she said.
Ms Parker, who was previously a member of the Legislative Council, said she wanted to pursue new opportunities after 12 years in Parliament.
‘‘I went into politics with my integrity and I leave with it intact,’’ she said.
Locals close to her campaign were stunned at the news.
Maitland City councillor Philip Penfold, Ms Parker’s 2011 local campaign co-ordinator, said he was ‘‘shocked and saddened’’.
There is no obvious replacement to take on Labor’s Jenny Aitchison, who said Ms Parker’s decision ‘‘confirms the Liberal party are in disarray and she no longer wants to be a part of a party that has turned its back on the people of the Hunter’’.
Cr Penfold is not at present a Liberal party member and would say only ‘‘this is a lot to take in’’.
Long-serving councillor Bob Geoghegan and Newcastle City councillor Lisa Tierney, from the Maitland area, are likely to be discussed as possibilities.
Liberal Maitland branch president Mitchell Price, 24, is considered ambitious.
Popular mayor Peter Blackmore battled health problems after contesting the seat as an independent in 2007.
Ms Parker said she was proud of her record of infrastructure delivery and being the first female Maitland MP.
The government put on a show of its support for the region throughout question time on Thursday, ahead of Ms Parker’s announcement late in the afternoon.
Resources Minister Anthony Roberts mocked Labor’s promised pedestrian skybridge and new convention centre for Newcastle as the ‘‘pie in the sky bridge’’.
Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian told Parliament that Labor’s proposal to retain the city’s heavy rail and build more level crossings went against long-standing safety advice and could lead to one train triggering gate closures at two crossings at the same time, causing traffic havoc.
‘‘Over the past 10 years, governments have closed 150level crossings across the state and opened just one.’’
However, Labor’s transport spokeswoman Penny Sharpe dismissed the comments as ‘‘scaremongering’’ and an attempt to distract from Ms Parker’s announcement.
Labor had proposed ‘‘re-signalling’’ the Newcastle line, to enable more efficient use of level crossings and minimise delays.
MAITLAND MP Robyn Parker announces she won't recontest her seat at the next state election in March.
The loss of Ms Parker is another blow to the Liberal Party's fortunes in the region in the wake of the resignations of the Newcastle MP Tim Owen and Charlestown MP Andrew Cornwell, over revelations they accepted developer donations for their 2011 campaigns.
Ms Parker was not implicated in any wrongdoing at the ICAC.
She has been the state member for Maitland since 2011.
She was previously a member of the Legislative Council since 2003.