Rose Wanchap is not the only real estate agent seeking election to Byron Shire Council next month. Four agents, or agency employees, are standing on three different tickets.
Gail Fuller, director of Byron Coastal Real estate, is heading up one ticket. Kirsty Harland, who works in her office, is in fourth position on the same ticket.
Brian Grant, a long-time agent with GNF Bangalow, is running in fourth position on National Party-aligned councillor Alan Hunter’s ticket.
All four have stated on their candidate information sheets that they are ‘not a property developer’ or ‘a close associate of a property developer’.
In the optional section under the heading ‘employment’, three of the four candidates failed to nominate an occupation.
Ms Wanchap alone completed that section, describing herself as ‘business owner/manager’.
Call for ban
The rush of real estate agents to the fore has prompted Labor candidate and Wilsons Creek Public School principal Wil Constable to call for a ban on all real estate agents and developers from being able to run for council.
Mr Constable said it had been ‘long standing Labor policy to place a ban on real estate agents and developers from running for local government and we are calling for this ban to be introduced into Byron Shire.’
‘It is unrealistic to think that real estate agents and developers can totally remove their conflict of interest on the planning decisions of council,’ he said.
‘We saw the result of The Greens electing a real estate agent, Rose Wanchap, to council in 2012. This decision by The Greens meant that while the community voted for a progressive council, we got a conservative one. It has meant that council has made key decisions in favour of developers and the property industry, and against the best interests of our community.
‘There are a record number of real estate agents running for council this election, with at least four running across each of the conservative tickets. If they are elected, whose interest will they serve? It’s time to get these vested interests out of our council.’
‘We are asking all voters in Byron Shire to think about who they want representing them after this election. We are asking them to put the community first and to put the vested interests of the property industry last.’
The Labor team have started a change.org petition calling for real estate agents and property developers to be banned from running for Byron Shire council.
But Ms Fuller has described the ‘concern regarding real estate agents [sitting] on council for self gain’ as ‘a very naïve position to take.’
‘Each candidate and person running must be judged on their track record and community service regardless of their chosen industry,’ she told Echonetdaily.
‘Long-term real estate agents have development experience with planning and housing and can contribute positively in this sector,’ she added.
‘Many developers ask the advice of agents in their housing design and layout.
‘The other bonus is that we are on the ground and at the cold [sic] face of the community seeing the issues first hand, with housing shortage and community facilities required.
‘Experienced industry people are more likely to understand and negotiate possible conflicts between land uses and or neighbours.
‘The state government have planning rules and codes of conduct for councillors to cover this matter and, any conflict of interest must be declared,’ Ms Fuller said.