SYDNEY, AAP – A weary NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro is leaving politics after helping map the state’s course through one of the most challenging times in living memory.
The 49-year-old is known for wearing his heart on his sleeve during a political career that has lasted more than a decade.
“I just don’t have the energy anymore,” he said, announcing his exit just days after the shock departure of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian.
Born in Queanbeyan to Italian migrant parents, he worked as a carpenter and on the factory floor of his family’s business.
He moved from local councillor to the state seat of Monaro in 2011.
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Before serving alongside Ms Berejiklian he worked under Barry O’Farrell, and as deputy premier to Mike Baird from 2016 – none of whom lasted a full term in the top job.
Mr Barilaro helped steer NSW through a prolonged drought, severe flood disasters, a relentless mouse plague, and a once in a hundred year global health pandemic.
The Nationals leader announced his resignation one week before the state emerges from nearly four months of COVID-19 lockdown, using a roadmap to freedoms he helped create.
Following the catastrophic bushfires that caused widespread damage in 2019 and 2020, Mr Barilaro headed up disaster recovery.
He also weathered a political and personal storm in 2020 when the coalition government nearly imploded because of a dispute over the state’s koala protection policy.
Soon after he took mental health leave, then had his driver’s licence suspended for speeding and using a mobile phone behind the wheel.
Among his proudest achievements he lists delivering five new schools, at Jerrabomberra, Googong, Bungendore, Jindabyne and Karabar.
Mr Barilaro’s campaign to save the Snowy Mountains brumby resulted in legislation giving heritage status to the wild horses in Kosciuszko National Park in 2018, against the advice of ecologists, international conservation groups and the RSPCA.
He also promised the government would tread carefully on recently revealed development plans for the Australian Alps, amid an outcry they would undermine 70 years of conservation work.
Mr Barilaro was a strong advocate for mining families as regional industry and trade minister from 2019, and helped develop the strategic statement on coal exploration and mining.
Federal Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce said the key to Mr Barilaro’s success was that he was “not a cookie-cutter politician”, while Treasurer Dominic Perrottet described him as one of the fiercest and most effective advocates for people in regional NSW the state has ever known.