Nationals Parliamentary Secretary for Renewable Energy and Northern NSW Ben Franklin at the Mullumbimby's Hydro-electric Power Station which operated from 1926 until the 1960s.
Nationals Parliamentary Secretary for Renewable Energy and Northern NSW Ben Franklin at the Mullumbimby's Hydro-electric Power Station which operated from 1926 until the 1960s. Marc Stapelberg

What Franklin will focus on before we head to the polls

INFRASTRUCTURE, the region's natural beauty and its communities will be hot topics for The Nationals' candidate for Ballina.

Ben Franklin has been a member of the Legislative Council for the past three years.

But he has been selected, unopposed, as the official candidate for the NSW seat of Ballina.

He will take on sitting Greens MP Tamara Smith and Labor candidate Asren Pugh at the polls in March.

Mr Franklin said 50 members of The Nationals gathered to vote on his pre-selection yesterday.

He was required to give a speech to the group before fielding questions.

"I was really honoured by the support," he said.

Mr Franklin said infrastructure would be a big-ticket item for him ahead of the election.

"We need to have better infrastructure in the area," he said.

"In Byron, the state of the roads is appalling.

"It's because of the fact there's 2.1 million visitors a year (with) a rate base of 15,000 people.

"The roads get a pounding all the time so I'll be working to see if we can find a solution for that."

He said the upgrade of the Ballina Byron Gateway Airport was going to be "absolutely critical" to industry, jobs and tourism in the area.

"That's obviously got to be pared with the fact we live in one of the most beautiful parts of the country," he said.

"We need to focus on doing all we can to ensure that's protected."

He said this included addressing the health of the Richmond River, which had become "a political hot potato".

"There needs to be a much more co-ordinated approach," he said.

"There's a lot of work to be done in that space."

Mr Franklin reiterated he had not originally planned to run for the seat of Ballina, but believed if elected, he could build on what he's done as an MLC.

"I've love doing the job I've been doing for the last three years," he said.

"The best thing has been working so closely with the community.

"There's something really special about being an official member for a community.

"It's an incredible, special trust that's placed on you.

"When I made the decision (to run for Ballina), I didn't make it lightly."