Story and photo Luis Feliu
Councillor Barry Longland has been re-elected as mayor of Tweed for the next 12 months, his third term in a row in the top job, and he has promised continued stability for the shire during the coming year.
The vote during an extraordinary meeting of Tweed Shire Council last night was 4–3.
Cr Longland’s usual supporters, Crs Michael Armstrong, Gary Bagnall and Katie Milne, backed him against the only other nominee, Cr Warren Polglase, who was supported by his political allies, Crs Phil Youngblutt and Carolyn Byrne.
Cr Armstrong was re-elected deputy mayor by the same voting pattern that elected Cr Longland, against the only other nominee for the job, Cr Youngblutt.
It is Cr Longland’s second term as mayor of the current council (2012–2016) after having served as mayor of the previous council in its last year.
Cr Longland, a former accountant, lives in the village of Uki and was elected to Council in 2008.
After the vote the new mayor told media he was ‘totally honoured and privileged’ to have been re-elected and he looked forward to another year of achievement.
‘I think it represents some stability for the shire. The last council had four mayors in four years and I don’t believe that represents stability for the community,’ Cr Longland said.
He said that he loved the job, and that as mayor he gets out in the community, meets a lot of people, ‘goes to everything’ and finds out ‘what the residents are passionate about’.
‘That’s what you need to guide decision making, it’s not about me. I then make decisions that are in the best interests of the shire.’
Cr Longland said the past year had seen one ‘difficult period’, the sacking of former general manager David Keenan, describing the political backlash as ‘an attempt by some elements to divide the community with the issue, which went on far too long’.
‘Those people need to understand that getting on the back of a truck and attacking councillors is not a constructive way to demonstrate any kind of stability in the community, but that’s well and truly behind us,’ he said.
The ‘back of the truck’ attack referred to Cr Longland’s political foe Cr Carolyn Byrne, who, along with Cr Warren Polglase and other National Party identities, was at the forefront of protests against the sacking, a move which was later vindicated by the Division of Local Government.
The process to recruit a new GM had been recently delayed by a preferred candidate pulling out at the last minute, but Cr Longland said it was now well underway with new expressions of interest being considered.
He also praised acting general manager Troy Green for being ‘an absolute soldier’ in working hard to ‘keep the ship going’.
Cr Longland said he was also ‘alarmed’ at the new federal government’s reported push to kickstart the coal seam gas (CSG) industry in the northern rivers.
He said councillors were unanimous in their opposition to the industry’s taking hold in the Tweed, declaring the shire CSG free, and the community had made a strong stand against it, ‘but we still have to be vigilant about it’.
The mayor said there were many challenges ahead for government, such as impending reforms of the state planning laws, a review of the Local Government Act and proposed boundary and structural changes.
He said other highlights for the year ahead included the delivery of an economic development strategy to build on the business incentives of the past year, continuing developments in environmental protection and milestone projects such as the Margaret Olley Art Centre.
He said he was also ‘excited at the prospect’ of a rail trail being established on the disused railway line between Murwillumbah and Casino, after the state government recently proposed to conduct a feasibility study on it.