Name: Joanna Gardner
Council: Tweed Shire
Town/city: Byrrill Creek, Uki
Number of years in shire/LGA: 30
Current councillor? No
Clubs/sports/interests: Connecting with my environment: current coordinator of Byrrill Creek Landcare doing riparian restoration projects, bushwalking, gardening, sailing, yoga
Overseas travel: different cultures and music, reading, and researching new ideas.
Are you a member of a political party or an organised ‘ticket’? Yes
The Tweed Greens – 2nd on Katie Milne’s ticket
Other candidates: Katie Milne, Kirsten Ealand, Andrea Vickers, Michael Manley, Ian Willis
Brief description: Please describe yourself in 30 words or less.
Resident for 30 years. Former director of Mt Warning Preschool, now running a small teaching business. I’m passionate about the environment and want to help Tweed move forwards to a more sustainable future.
2 What has motivated you to stand?
I have lived in this beautiful shire for 30 years and have been involved for many years in environmental issues and community groups to help preserve high-conservation areas in the Tweed.
I believe Tweed Shire deserves the best in governance. Having addressed council on numerous occasions over the last three years and watched Councillor Katie Milne trying to bring forward new ideas in council meetings to no avail, I see the only way to make any headway is to be on the inside as a councillor.
I see this council election as a make or break for Tweed Shire; either we become an extension of the Gold Coast, or we implement changes to this, through the election of councillors who value our unique bio-diverse environment.
As a Community Working Group (CWG) member involved with Tweed Council on Tweed water-augmentation issues, I have experienced the ‘community consultation’ process, which was largely ignored by the majority of councillors. I believe that councillors should really listen to their constituents and provide opportunities for open debate with the community.
I see water security is one of the long-term major issues facing this shire. As a member of the CWG I have spent the last three years collating and presenting experts’ reports and assessments on the Byrrill Creek area, which have scientifically proved beyond a doubt the high-ranking riparian conservation values of this area, the large percentage of threatened species in both state and federal conservation acts and the importance of the valley as a critical corridor linking world-heritage national parks. It is not the place to build a dam.
Further to this I have also been researching and networking with numerous water and urban-planning experts in Australia and firmly believe water security can be achieved through current best-practice water-saving technologies that are being implemented Australiawide. I have written numerous submissions and addressed the NSW Department Planning on this topic.
3 What is your vision for the shire/LGA?
My main goal is to promote a sustainable future for the Tweed shire. Thriving communities are created with good planning, which prioritises the people and environment.
The pressing need in this shire is to instigate changes in all new greenfield areas to promote environmentally sensitive developments and water-sensitive urban design, including the use of recycled water for outdoor garden use and toilets, which could achieve a 40–50 per cent reduction in potable water use.
As a proponent of sustainable urban developments, it’s high time to think outside the box: include koala-conservation areas and corridors, and a no-dog policy at the Kings Forest development, lakes and ponds to enhance and beautify our developments and to capture stormwater for reuse. Swales instead of concrete gutters to reduce run-off. Large communal rainwater tanks fed by multiple roofs in higher-density housing areas. Encourage solar-passive design in housing and the use of alternative energy. Cycleways and footpaths winding through strip nature reserves and community gardens between strips of houses. This sort of environment encourages social cohesion, a pride in community values, a beautiful place for kids to actively play, and nurtures an appreciation of environmental values. This is my vision to replace the 500 sq metre cheek-by-jowl roofs of endless unhealthy urban sprawl.
Community consultation is very important in determining the vision for the shire, but it is only the first step; implementing the community’s needs is the next real step, not just ticking the boxes for consultation and producing glossy brochures.
With struggling Tweed businesses, an economic strategy is long overdue and would greatly assist in establishing the economic direction we need to aim for and ways in which this could be attained.
In your opinion, how can council best balance the need for further residential development with the need to preserve the local environment?
There is already enough residential land zoned by council to provide for growth for the next 25 to 30 years to cater for a population of approx 160,000 residents. I understand these targets were set a long time ago and I question is this shire, this land, capable of supporting this population both environmentally and the associated social infrastructure needed.
To destroy bio-diverse areas in our hinterland to support coastal developments that may be inundated by sea rise and global warming in the future is not good planning or foresight.
Zoning areas, as in our Tweed LEP, helps towards preserving high-quality conservation areas, buffer zones, agricultural land and urban development.
5 What particular issues do you feel strongly about?
As well as sustainable urban planning and best-practice water management implementation, mentioned before, I’m very concerned about governance of the shire.
Decisions have been made this last term of council based on whims of certain councillors, with no scientific reasoning or support by experts, nor the support of the majority of the community. Councillor decisions need to be free of personal bias, reflect the needs of residents whom they represent, and above all be honest and ethical.
Expenditure on luxury projects, and the Byrrill Creek dam preapproval, is a waste of millions of dollars of council’s resources, when funds could be allocated to more socially equitable projects like affordable housing, and a refuge centre for homeless youth.
Another most important issue is to halt the cancer-like spread of the coal-seam gas industry, which would threaten our food security, our drinking water, visual amenity and ecotourism industry, when we could have 100 per cent renewable energy instead.
Studying and working in the ecotourism field gave me a very real understanding of the whole millennium history of this unique caldera: geological, social, cultural heritage, and environmental, and the role we hold as caretakers today
This shire is precious in so many ways. Let us all work together cooperatively to preserve its uniqueness for the caretakers of tomorrow.