NSW Labor has urged Tweed shire Cr Barry Longland not to ‘betray’ those who elected him by handing control of Tweed council to the pro-development National Party faction when he votes for a new mayor later today (Thursday).
The annual vote for the Tweed mayoralty will see only six of the usual seven councillors take part, after Labor’s Michael Armstrong quit a couple of months ago to care for his ailing father.
That left Tweed mayor Gary Bagnall facing an uphill battle in the numbers game to retain the job he’s held for the past year and in which he established a reputation as a community and environmental champion.
Last September, Cr Longland was replaced by Cr Bagnall after the other progressive councillors Katie Milne (Greens) and Cr Armstrong switched their support to Cr Bagnall when it emerged Cr Longland had reneged on a deal to share the mayoral reins of power among them over the four-year term of council.
National Party veteran Cr Warren Polglase leads the pro-development faction with Crs Phil Youngblutt and Carolyn Byrne, and lately they’ve often been joined by Cr Longland in a majority to push through some contentious development, such as the Mooball rezoning.
In a surprise move in state parliament yesterday, Labor’s north coast spokesman Walt Secord made a passionate plea to Cr Longland not to hand over control of Tweed Shire to the ‘white shoe brigade’ National Party grouping on council.
It’s believed Tweed Labor Party members gave crucial help and support for Cr Longland’s campaign to become a councillor and mayor.
Mr Secord said that by voting for a National Party mayor Cr Longland would ‘betray’ those who elected him to council.
It is unknown how Cr Longland will vote, but a tied 3-3 vote for a candidate from either progressive or conservative factions means the mayor’s name will have to be drawn out of a box/bucket by the general manager.
Cr Polglase has lost the draw for mayor several times over the years by the notorious ‘bucket’ method.
Mr Secord told NSW Parliament that a pro-development National Party mayor ‘will be a direct threat to the unique quality of life that Tweed Shire residents enjoy’.
He said a National Party majority and mayor ‘would approve projects like the Byrrill Creek dam and massive overdevelopments’.
(State Labor, along with the Greens, has long opposed the construction of Byrrill Creek Dam.)
‘Barry Longland has the future of the Tweed shire in his hands,’ he told MPs.
‘I implore him not to betray those who voted for him and not to vote for The Nationals, because if he votes for The Nationals and gives them the mayoralty they will destroy the unique quality of life in the area and they will allow massive overdevelopment and projects like Byrrill Creek dam.
‘Every project and overdevelopment approved by The Nationals will be the result of Barry Longland’s vote.
‘From tomorrow, Tweed residents will rightly hold Barry Longland responsible for every unsustainable and bad decision forced upon their shire if he installs a “develop everything in sight” Nationals mayor’.
Mr Secord said the proposed Byrrill Creek dam ‘has been a scheme of the North Coast white shoe brigade local property developers and their mates who, for the past 20 years, have dreamed of Byrrill Creek dam so they can cram thousands more units and houses into the far North Coast’.
Cr Polglase headed the 2004 council that was sacked by then Labor local government minister Tony Kelly following an inquiry by Professor Maurice Daly who found that an organisation known as Tweed Directions created a $660,000-plus developer-funded slush fund to secure a pro-development majority.
He labelled majority councillors as ‘developer puppets’.
Mr Kelly placed the council into the hands of administrators who included Lucy Turnbull, wife of federal Liberal frontbencher (and now PM) Malcolm Turnbull, and former Tweed Shire mayor Max Boyd.
Cr Bagnall last week told Echonetdaily he fears for the future of local government in the shire if his pro-development opponents take the reins of power.
The outspoken mayor said he was ready to ‘defend local government’ because his opponents on council would not do so and they would back the state government instead, which is ripping up the story book of over 100 years of local government in NSW’.
See previous story at https://www.echo.net.au/2015/09/numbers-stacked-against-tweeds-fighting-mayor/