The race for leadership of the state Labor Party descended on Bega over the weekend with both candidates for the top job looking to regional members to help hone the party's future direction.
It has been described as two right-faction MPs trying to differentiate themselves to party members, with 39-year-old Kogarah MP Chris Minns and 49-year-old Strathfield MP Jodi McKay holding debates in Wollongong, Berry, Vincentia and Bega across Saturday.
The contest was delayed by the federal election after party leader Michael Daley's defeat by Gladys Berejiklian in March, and both candidates said the new approach to installing the party's leader is an important part of the political process.
A postal ballot of 20,000 rank-and-file members will be combined with a Parliamentary caucus vote, with the new leader announced on June 30.
"We need to believe in our country candidates. You can't have a one size fits all approach," Mr Minns said this week.
He said the future of the regional economy was a popular topic of debate for members along the South Coast.
Ms McKay said the party needs policies which "resonate" with voters across the state, and to build the party to become a viable option for traditional National Party voters looking for other options at the ballot box.
"The most important thing about the leadership is to get to as many members as possible," she said.
She said the issues of climate change, homelessness, social housing, drought and rural jobs were raised by party members in Bega.
"It was really heartening to me that our party members are so engaged," she said.
Both candidates said they are concerned by the news NSW government debt will rise to nearly $39 billion in 2022-23. Both blamed privatisation and the sell of of productive assets for compounding the debt issue.
"Everyone is suggesting we are in for a tough period, and nobody is prepared. We need a renewable energy target in NSW, because the jobs and investment aren't coming. We also need to develop export markets aside from mining," he said.
Ms McKay said the debt projection is "quite extraordinary", and said the government has not ruled out further privatisation.
The Bega debate was mediated by Country Labor's candidate for the 2019 state election, Leanne Atkinson, who said both contenders were interested in what members had to say about their own visions for the future of the state.
"Their visit to Bega demonstrated their ongoing commitment to this region," she said.
"Both candidates talked about the importance of rural communities, and also their focus on policies that result in jobs growth in communities such as ours.
"Locals talked about housing and homelessness, and also about jobs in the region and how to better support young people."