Two days out of from the council elections and the gloves are off, with Tweed mayor Barry Longland calling some opponents ‘extremist’ and his rivals in the conservative camp targeting him in a costly advertising campaign.
The poster advertisements are set to appear over the next two days and warn voters against Cr Longland, saying a vote for him is a vote for Labor, a claim sparked by a recent preference-swap deal between Cr Longland the the Labor camp led by Michael Armstrong.
It is based on a similar campaign set to roll out tomorrow and Saturday in the Lismore LGA, also funded by National Party and conservative supporters, linking mayor Jenny Dowell with Labor.
Cr Longland has always rejected any party affiliation or endorsement, while Ms Dowell leads a ticket that is openly endorsed by Country Labor.
In a veiled attack on the Greens and National Party candidates this week, Cr Longland said there was no room in Tweed Council for ‘extremism’ or party politics, declaring he was comfortable being the ‘man in the middle’.
But the Greens Cr Katie Milne angrily hit back at the mayor’s suggestion her party was ‘extreme’ or that she was to blame for stalling plans to boost the shire’s water storage.
Cr Milne says the language used by the mayor was ‘awful’ and harked back to the ‘bad old days’ when developer-funded council candidates used it in advertising-scare campaigns.
The ‘extremism’ tag has been widely used by conservative groups to attack the Greens.
Cr Longland recently expressed frustration when a push by him and Cr Dot Holdom to adopt the option of raising the existing Clarrie Hall Dam wall to boost supply failed to get support from Cr Milne.
But Cr Milne says council should look at other water-saving and recycling measures to negate the need for any dam works.
The move to raise the dam wall, if successful, would have finally sunk the relentless push by pro-development and National Party-aligned councillors for the more expensive option of building a new dam at Byrrill Creek.
The new dam was second choice behind the option of raising the Clarrie Hall Dam wall, which was recommended by a community consultative group.
Cr Longland had blamed ‘uncompromising ideology’ for stalling the Clarrie Hall Dam works, saying there was no room for it ‘if you want to be part of a team’.
‘There’s a lot of uncompromising ideology associated with some of these people and when you get that it’s hard to get things done.’
Cr Milne said the label was obviously directed at her and Cr Longland has used the term several times before.
‘It’s awful, but if he wants to play into that… I don’t think he should be putting people down just to put himself up.’
Cr Longland said he was happy to take the middle ground of this election by default as he was ‘copping it’ from both sides.
He said he was initially upset when a community group ignored him in their material promoting progressive candidates, but then thought ‘maybe it’s a good thing’ that both sides of politics were at arm’s length.
‘Politics is the art of the achievable, and nobody gets everything they want, so I’m comfortable taking the middle or common ground,’ he said.
Ten of the 12 above-the-line groups have allied themselves, with preference swap deals, into two blocs of five groups each in order to boost their chances of winning a majority on the seven-seat council.
Ironically, Cr Longland (Group E) and Cr Milne (Group H) are in the same community/Green/Labor alliance with Mr Armstrong’s Group G, Gary Bagnall’s Group L and Eddie Roberts’s Group K.
The conservative/National Party/business alliance is led by Cr Warren Polglase’s Group B and is backed by Cr Phil Youngblutt’s Group D, Jayne Henry’s Group C, Bruce Campbell’s Group I and Carolyn Byrne’s Group F.
Cr Dot Holdom’s Group J and Kaye Sharples’s Group A appear to be unaligned to the two major blocs.