New Tweed mayor Barry Longland expects the freshly elected seven-member council to work collaboratively over the next four years, rather than split between two politically allied blocs or factions as in the past.
At last night’s first meeting of the new council, Cr Longland was returned as mayor for the next 12 months, with first-time councillor Michael Armstrong elected deputy mayor.
Cr Longland received four votes to three, with support from Crs Katie Milne, Michael Armstrong, and Gary Bagnall as well as his own vote, while veteran conservative Cr Warren Polglase, the other mayoral contender, received three votes (Crs Phil Youngblutt, Carolyn Byrne and his own).
The vote giving the deputy mayor’s position to Cr Armstrong was along the same 4–3 pattern and reflects the two alliances, with the so-called progressives in the majority.
In the vote preceding it, the conservative side led by Cr Polglase lost its bid to hold a secret ballot for the positions, also along the same 3–4 voting pattern.
But Cr Longland, a Uki-based former accountant, who served as mayor for the past 12 months, rejected claims a voting pattern was emerging with the identical 4–3 vote for the two positions.
‘I don’t think tonight’s result represents a pattern emerging because there were two nominees for position of mayor and deputy, and you’ll see votes of that type where there’s two nominees,’ Cr Longland told Echonetdaily.
‘There’s a new mix of people and balance in the council and it’s broadly reflective of the community.
‘We need to ensure the seven of us can work together to identify the common ground and shared values that we have in order to get outcomes for the Tweed community, and that’s what I’ll be looking for in the position as mayor.’
Cr Polglase, a National Party stalwart, told media an ‘obvious’ voting pattern had emerged last night. He said he expected contentious issues to draw a similar 4–3 vote ‘maybe against the conservative side’, who have lost their previous majority.
Former state MP for Murwillumbah Don Beck, who observed the vote from the packed public gallery with his wife, former Tweed mayor Lynne Beck, agreed with his National Party colleague.
Mr Beck told Echonetdaily the two ‘sides’ had made it obvious by where they all sat, at opposite ends, and they should mix and match the seating arrangement to avoid the perception they were factionalised.
Greens Cr Milne said she didn’t think the seating arrangement affected a councillor’s individual voting habits.
New deputy mayor Cr Armstrong, endorsed by Labor in the council election, said he didn’t expect a divided council.
‘I think it’s going to be an opportunity to get out there to show that it’s a council that can work together, that can work with and open the doors to the community and invite them to have an active role and ownership with their council.
‘The seven councillors here represent the community and we have to show the community that we’re here for them.’
First-time councillor Carolyn Byrne told Echonetdaily that despite being seen to be part of the conservative camp, she was not a member of any political party and hoped all councillors would leave party politics behind.
In his acceptance speech, Cr Longland said the new council needed to protect the Tweed’s natural assets, work in partnership with the community to stimulate the local economy and improve the way Council delivers its services to the public.
He reflected on council’s achievements in his past term as mayor, including the development of the Murwillumbah Community Centre, Jack Evans Boat Harbour, the planning for the Margaret Olley Art Centre, a number of new and upgraded water treatment plants, new sporting facilities and a number of key planning documents.
The full gallery included the former shire, and Australia’s longest-serving, mayor Max Boyd, other past councillors and businesspeople.
Mr Boyd said he was pleased with the new council, which he expected to continue to work well with Cr Longland at the helm.
The first ordinary council meeting will be held next Tuesday 25 September at 7pm.