The Tweed Shire Council election is once again shaping up as a battle between progressives and conservatives for control of the seven-seat council.
But it seems one of the conservative group tickets was not registered with the NSW Electoral Commission, which some observers have told Echonetdaily has sparked a ‘meltdown’ within the local National Party.
The Tweed poll has spawned the biggest field of candidates among the north coast electorates for the September 10 poll: 61 candidates in 12 groups, with four candidates ungrouped.
And while three of those groups face voters on endorsed party tickets (The Greens, Country Labor and the Liberals), the National Party members and their conservative supporters have chosen to fly under the masquerading ’Independent’ moniker again.
The final field of candidates was declared on Wednesday at the NSW Electoral Commission’s office in Tweed Heads, with the ballot draw for the voting card keenly watched by party apparatchiks and other candidates.
Deputy mayor Gary Bagnall won the highly-prized top spot on the ballot paper, giving him the benefit of the ‘donkey vote’, much to the dismay of conservative candidates present but delight from progressives. (To view the full list of candidates, visit the votensw.com website).
Cr Bagnall once again has the support on his ticket of Team Koala president Jenny Hayes.
The second spot drawn went to former mayor Barry Longland, running as a true ‘Independent’ in that he won’t have the support of any of the major parties, as he did previously when Labor members unofficially helped his campaign.
The Tweed Liberals, led by Casuarina resident James Owen, was drawn third on the ballot, while Country Labor, headed by former state election candidate Reece Byrnes, was drawn fifth.
All current councillors, except National Party elder Phil Youngblutt, who has retired from politics, are recontesting their seats, including incumbent mayor Katie Milne (The Greens), veteran Nationals’ member Warren Polglase, and his conservative colleague Carolyn Byrne.
Former mayor Kevin Skinner is on events manager Jayne Henry’s conservative group, while other former councillors running again include Dot Holdom and Ron Cooper from Kingscliff, and Steve Dale from Cabarita/Bogangar.
Other high-profile candidates include Pottsville Community Association president Chris Cherry and Murwillumbah High School acting principal Michael McNamara.
Of the 12 groups, six appear to be from the progressive camp and both sets of groups are aiming to secure at least four seats for a majority on council, and the mayoralty, for the next four years.
(In the Tweed election, councillors vote for the mayor while other electorates have popularly-elected mayors.)
The progressive groups are A (Bagnall), E (Country Labor), F (Ron Cooper), G (Cherry), H (The Greens) and I (McNamara) while the five groups in the conservative fold are C (Liberals), D (Carolyn Byrne), J (Polglase), K (Dot Holdom) and L (Jayne Henry).
But the conservative camp expected to run six groups were flabbergasted at Wednesday’s ballot draw when only five were drawn.
Apparently there was a major last-minute stuff-up where conservative Murwillumbah businessman Pryce Allsop’s group ticket, which included other Nationals supporters such as Tweed Heads businessman Rory Curtis and Murwillumbah shop owner Bill Larkin, had not been registered.
Echonetdaily has asked the NSW Electoral Commission for comment on what went wrong, with some at the ballot draw describing the controversy as an ‘embarrassment’ which sparked a ‘meltdown’ within National Party ranks.
Comment has also been sought from Mr Allsop and Mr Curtis, but none was forthcoming at the time of going to press.
The four ungrouped candidates contesting the poll are blind people’s advocate Suzy Hudson, Hare Krishna devotee Mathuranatha Das, Bilambil Heights shopkeeper Dion Andrews, and Eungella resident James McKenzie.
Ballot paper draw, groups
1. Group A: Bagnall, G (Independent)
2. Group B: Longland, B (Independent)
3. Group C: Owen, J (Liberal)
4. Group D: Byrne, C
5. Group E: Byrnes, R (Country Labor)
6. Group F: Cooper, R (Independent)
7. Group G: Cherry, C (Independent)
8. Group H: Milne, K (Greens)
9. Group I: McNamara, M (Independent)
10. Group J: Polglase, W (Independent)
11. Group K: Holdom, D (Independent)
12. Group L: Henry, J (Independent)
The four ungrouped candidates, in order of draw:
1. Andrews, Dion (Independent)
2. Hudson, Suzy (Independent)
3. Das, Mathuranatha (Independent)
4. McKenzie, James (Independent)