Name: Phil Meehan
Council: Ballina Shire
Number of years in shire/LGA: 18 years
Current councillor? No
Clubs/sports/interests: Member Ballina Golf Club and Ballina Jockey Club. I am an active surfer and cyclist. I am interested in community building and the lifestyle and environment of Ballina Shire.
Are you a member of a political party or an organised ‘ticket’? No
Brief description: Phil is a community-minded person managing state equity programs in north coast region. He is a family man with three generations living in Ballina Shire and an active sportsperson.
2 What has motivated you to stand?
I have a passion to keep Ballina Shire a great place to live, now and in future decades. At the heart of this is active and strong representation for residents by their councillors. I believe that I can improve the representation that B Ward residents have received in the past term of Council and contribute to Council decision making in a way that is positive and informed by the community.
3 What is your vision for the shire/LGA?
Ballina Shire has been identified by the state government as a regional growth centre for a number of years. The shire’s population and urban areas will continue to grow in coming decades.
My vision for Ballina Shire is for this growth to be managed in a way that protects two key elements: the lifestyle of current residents and the fantastic environment that we live in. For this to be achieved there needs to be a movement away from development based upon a ‘we have been planning this for a long time’ style of thinking to a planning approach of ‘is this the best thing for our shire, its residents and environment’, today and in coming decades.
4 In your opinion, how can council best balance the need for further residential development with the need to preserve the local environment?
The growth of residential development needs to be staged to reflect current and near-term needs for more housing blocks. This approach will allow the time and processes for environmental protection to be carefully analysed and planned for. As well the required infrastructure in ‘greenfield’ areas and the upgrading of connecting roads and drainage etc can be managed in a staged and affordable way for the council.
The recent re-zoning approval at one council meeting of the Cumbalum A and Cumbalum B precincts, together with Stewart farmland at Skennars Head is, in my opinion, against the best interests of environmentally sensitive planning. This decision, not supported by all councillors, allows the possibility of urban development occurring across vast tracts of Ballina Shire in a disjointed fashion.
5 What particular issues do you feel strongly about?
I feel strongly about:
- Councillors maintaining contact with the residents and businesses of their ward over the full four years of the council term. This involves communicating with people, knowing the issues and advocating strongly at council for the best possible outcomes.
- Rates being affordable now and into future years. Currently there are opinions being put forward that Ballina Shire’s commercial assets portfolio should be examined for the possibility of sale. The reason given is that this will enable better maintenance and establishment of infrastructure. In my opinion this is a very short-sighted approach. Council’s commercial assets have generated income for the shire independent of residents’ rate payments since the 1970s. This income enables our rates to be approximately 10 per cent lower year after year. It has also enabled the building of some major infrastructure projects, eg Angels Beach Drive and Prospect Bridge, without he cost being directly on ratepayers. I am firmly opposed to the sale of his income-making portfolio.
- The development of a new and up-to-date management plan for the Lake Ainsworth precinct at Lennox Head. The lake and its surrounds are among some of the most beautiful environmental assets we have in the Ballina Shire. It is also one of the most fragile owing to a close-built environment, ourselves and visitors at times ‘loving it to death’ and the roadway along the east side.
- A new and detailed plan of management that is then genuinely followed is overdue.
- Coal-seam gas exploration and mining is threatening the northern rivers and potentially Ballina Shire. I am firmly opposed to it. Currently there are many issues to be worked through and solutions found that would be acceptable to the community and protective of our environment and lifestyle. These include:
– unacceptable access rights to people’s land by mining companies
– the potential of gas-well networks with roads and pipelines traversing our countryside
– very large amounts of wastewater that is at best highly salty
– the potential contamination and depletion of our ground aquifers.