NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has appointed Catherine Cusack to be the Hunter's "voice" in NSW Parliament only months after Ms Cusack's office was caught up in an online social media trolling scandal.
Ms Berejiklian said she was proud to appoint Ms Cusack as parliamentary secretary for the Hunter "to ensure locals have a voice across government".
"Catherine is a hardworking and experienced member of the NSW Government who is committed to serving the people of the Hunter," Ms Berejiklian said in a statement today.
Ms Cusack said she was "absolutely thrilled to take on this role" which would give the region "the opportunity to continue our government's record investment in infrastructure."
The appointment was announced two weeks after every parliamentary staff member was advised they would need to undertake mandatory code of conduct training after a social media trolling scandal in the seat of Port Stephens during the state election.
An adviser to Ms Cusack, Tasman Brown, who was assisting Port Stephens Liberal candidate Jaimie Abbott during the campaign, was found to have breached the code of conduct when he used a fake Facebook account to troll the campaign of Port Stephens Labor MP Kate Washington.
Mr Brown apologised for the incident. Ms Abbott apologised to Ms Washington.
Ms Cusack, who strongly defended Mr Brown when the claims first arose after he initially denied operating the fake accounts, said she was misled and "very disappointed" after Mr Brown's involvement was confirmed.
Ms Washington said she was still waiting for an apology from Ms Cusack "after her staff were caught setting up fake Facebook accounts and spreading lies and misinformation about me throughout the last election".
"If Catherine Cusack is the best the Premier can offer our region, I think we just all have to accept that the Liberal Government no longer cares about the Hunter," Ms Washington said.
In a letter to all staff in early December the Department of Parliamentary Services said the code of conduct for staff had been updated to incorporate emerging issues, including the use of social media by members' staff and political party activities.
The scandal emerged during the March election campaign after Ms Washington complained to Facebook about the accounts, which had been active for months prior to the election.
Facebook deleted seven profiles connected to Mr Brown as a result. It was the first time Facebook had taken action in Australia on a complaint about online activity related to an election campaign.
A Facebook spokesman said it had taken action because Mr Brown's use of the social media platform breached its conditions of use.
Ms Cusack said she looked forward to working with Hunter communities "to achieve positive outcomes for individuals, families and businesses alike".
"My plan is to build on the Berejiklian Government's work in revitalising Newcastle and the entire Hunter region to make it an even better place to live, work and play."
Ms Cusack has been a member of the NSW Legislative Council since 2003.
Hunter Business Chamber chief executive officer Bob Hawes welcomed Ms Cusack's appointment after the chamber wrote to Ms Berejiklian in April expressing concern about the lack of a dedicated Hunter representative in the ministry.
"The Parliamentary Secretary role is an important conduit to Cabinet for stakeholders in our region, helping to promote the interests of the Hunter across all portfolios," Mr Hawes said.
"Catherine will be an influential voice to the highest levels of the NSW Government, reinforcing regional priorities and ensuring that ministers are aware of the many opportunities here for investment, growth and economic diversification."