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Grant falls on sword after NSW by-election

AAP logoAAP 14/11/2016 Stefanie Menezes

The NSW Nationals' humiliating showing at the Orange by-election has claimed its first political scalp, with deputy premier and party leader Troy Grant stepping down.

While premier Mike Baird admits responsibility for the by-election result, Mr Grant has fallen on his sword and will be followed by Education Minister Adrian Piccoli who will also stand down from the Nationals' deputy leader position.

The casualties come as the vote count for Saturday's by-election puts the Shooters Fishers and Farmers party within range of winning the seat held by the Nationals for almost 70 years.

The unprecedented 35 per cent primary vote swing against the party put the heat on, and Mr Grant was due to face a leadership spill at Tuesday's party room meeting.

But the deputy premier stepped down on Monday afternoon in a bid to give the government an opportunity to "pause and reset".

"No one encouraged me to go. I spoke to my colleagues about it and I just didn''t want the turmoil to continue," he told reporters in Sydney.

Monaro MP John Barilaro is expected to fill the vacant leadership role and become deputy premier.

Unrest within the Nationals' party room had been swirling for months, as Mr Grant's backing of Mr Baird's now-scrapped greyhound racing ban was publicly slammed by fellow MPs.

The controversial policy and forced local council mergers have been blamed as the main contributors of the disastrous by-election result.

Mr Baird on Monday admitted he should be held accountable for the "terrible" coalition outcome.

He said he was incredibly saddened by Mr Grant's decision.

"I know what a great man Troy Grant is. I think he's done an incredible job for his community, and his leadership in the last state election was second to none," Mr Baird said.

The government would learn from the by-election, he said, but reversing the deeply unpopular council amalgamations was off the table.

Labor leader Luke Foley said it was unfortunate Mr Grant was being thrown under the bus over the greyhounds debacle.

"They're trying to make poor old Troy Grant walk the gang plank to get the heat off Mike Baird (but) it's the policies of Mr Baird that have driven this government near to a cul-de-sac," he said.

With just 204 votes to be counted, Shooters candidate Phil Donato is on track to win Orange on 50.3 per cent of the two-party preferred vote and Nationals candidate Scott Barrett is on 49.7 per cent.

Labor preferences favour the minor party and it's expected the Shooters will secure their first lower house seat when the final results are announced later this week.

The seat became vacant when former MP Andrew Gee resigned to run for federal parliament earlier this year.

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