Despite its alleged environment credentials, just one Byron Shire council candidate – Karin Kolbe – bothered to respond to a pre-poll questionnaire emailed to all prospective councillors in six shires by Lismore-based Friends of the Koala.
The group’s president, Lorraine Vass, told Echonetdaily the result in Byron was particularly disappointing given that Byron is still in the process of developing its Koala Plan of Management.
She said she was fairly confident her email had reached most of the sitting councillors at least. ‘I even got a read receipt from [Greens mayoral candidate] Simon Richardson but he never responded,’ she said.
‘Of course some of the candidates don’t supply any contact information on the Electoral Commission website,’ she added. ‘It makes you wonder why they want to run at all.’
Mrs Vass said that only about half of all the candidates contacted responded.
‘Friends of the Koala can only assume that failing to respond indicates a lack of interest in koalas. This is particularly worrying for koala conservationists given the tenuous situation for koalas and the pressure in regard to coastal and hinterland development in our region.’
The questionnaire ranked candidates out of 20 based on four questions, each with a maximum of five points:
- Do you support your council having a Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management (CKPOM), as recommended by the state government, to protect and conserve koalas? (At present Lismore is the only council to have adopted a CKPOM and it only covers the south-east part of its area.)
- In the absence of a CKPOM, would you support Tree Preservation Orders in rural areas as a way of maintaining koala habitat?
- What priority do you think council staff should give to koalas in regard to subdivisions, road construction and traffic management?
- How important do you consider koalas are for northern rivers communities?
The six LGAs surveyed were Ballina, Byron, Kyogle Lismore, Richmond Valley and Tweed.
The best response came from Ballina, where 13 out of the 24 candidates responded, most of them positively.
Coming in with the highest possible score of 20/20 were Ballina candidates Tony Gilding, Sue Meehan, Sharon Cadwallader, Jeff Johnson, Keith Williams, Effie Ablett, Paul Worth and David Wright.
Scoring 17/20 were Steven McCarthy and Keith Johnson, with Kiri Dicker on 15 and Kieren Drabsch on 14.
Of Lismore’s 60 prospective candidates, eight returned the survey with four receiving top marks: Simon Clough, Jenny Dowell, Vanessa Ekins and Kate Olivieri all scored 20/20. David Yarnall came next with 17/20.
Gianpiero Battista just scraped in on 12/20 and Graham Meineke scored a fail with just 7/20.
In Tweed, five of the 59 candidates responded –Michael Armstrong, Dot Holdom, Katie Milne and Lindy Smith – all of them scoring 20/20.
In Kyogle, candidates Brodie and Wilson came in on 20/20 and Mullholland on 17/20.
Five candidates (including four in Richmond Valley) responded but didn’t address the questionnaire. They were not assessed for the purposes of the survey. There were no other responses from Richmond Valley.