NSW Nationals MP Leslie Williams to defect to Liberals over 'politically reckless' koala saga

The New South Wales Nationals MP Leslie Williams has quit the party as the fallout from the koala policy saga rolls on.

In a statement, the Port Macquarie MP revealed she has applied to join the NSW division of the Liberal party.

“Sadly, the events of the past weeks and months have cemented my decision to resign as a member of the NSW Nationals effective immediately,” Williams said on Sunday.

It comes after the NSW deputy premier and state Nationals leader John Barilaro went on mental health leave on Friday following a torrid fortnight.

Barilaro threatened to implode the Coalition government if concessions were not made over the koala policy, which he described as a “nail in the coffin for farmers”.

The Nationals are concerned changes to the koala habitat protection state environmental planning policy limit land use on farms and the ability to rezone areas for development.

He backed down when the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, gave him an ultimatum – that Nationals MPs support the government or its ministers be sacked from cabinet.

Williams said she told the deputy premier last week she did not support his actions.

“The NSW Liberals and Nationals have delivered unprecedented investment across the Port Macquarie electorate and to put this in jeopardy and hold the premier and the government to ransom during this Covid-19 pandemic was unnecessary, unhelpful and frankly politically reckless and unreasonable,” Williams said.

“The events of the past week have represented a further example of a course of conduct and dealing that has once again effectively been condoned and failed to be addressed.

“My community deserves to be represented in parliament by members and leaders that are focused on their needs and their aspirations and they rightly expect to have policy overshadowing politics.”

AAP has approached the NSW Nationals for comment.