– Editor, The Byron Shire Echo
The Byron Shire election will not only be an opportunity to elect our next councillors, it will be up to those elected to appoint a new general manager.
The past rocky relationship between the mayor and the previous GM is well documented, so all eyes are on how a new mayor will engage with staff and lead through the murky waters of these agendas.
As it stands, we have three mayoral hopefuls so far: deputy mayor Basil Cameron, Greens candidate Simon Richardson and independent Diane Woods. As current councillors, all three know the terrain and have contributed much to the community already.
As for other councillor candidates, there is a healthy mix of independents who are not party aligned to Labor or Liberal.
There are many who actively work at ground level, such as the community independents, which includes the general manager of the Byron Bay Community Centre, Paul Spooner. Interestingly the business community has not put forward a candidate as yet; however, there is still time. New changes to the NSW government’s pecuniary interest legislation will potentially make it easier for developments to get through, and despite resource grabbing by the state – such as the caravan parks – we are told heavier workloads have been transferred to council staff by the state.
Here are a few issues to ponder over until ballot day:
Address and review unexecuted council motions. Councillors’ many requests to staff have led to a cyber graveyard of well-intentioned but forgotten motions.
There is no doubt that tourism is the dominant economy, but what of other sectors that, with the right nurturing, could provide the resilience that this community continually espouses? Food production, manufacturing, creative arts and IT come to mind.
Addressing affordable housing could perhaps be achieved by investigating working models in neighbouring shires.
Byron Bay has needed a bypass for more than 20 years, and as the Ocean Shores population is almost as large, it too could do with basic infrastructure. An equitable festival policy is needed as well; it’s not just two major events we have in this shire, it’s two major event companies who want to ramp up their event sites that we have to deal with.
There’s holiday letting and the social problems caused by a binge-drinking culture.
And let’s not forget potholes and grubby public toilets.
One last thing: a great start to freshening up council would be to rename our infrastructure. Poor language usage divides and confuses. Until something vaguely cultural is held there, the Byron Regional Sports and Cultural Complex should be just called the Ewingsdale Sports Facility.
National and global media continually analyse this community whether we like it or not. Those outside our bubble often mock Byron’s alternative ways and ridicule the commitment we have to the environment and social issues.
It’s been a constant theme – for many years this shire has proudly questioned the narrative of constant economic – and unsustainable – growth at the expense of environment. Let’s hope it continues.