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February 5, 2023

Lismore City Council election 2016 – candidate profiles

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These candidate profiles feature the leader of groups, independents and mayoral candidates and are written by the candidates themselves and are provided here as a service to our readers. They have not been vetted or fact-checked by Echonetdaily editorial staff.

Note, the profiles are not posted according to the AEC’s draw but based on when we received them (top to bottom). All candidates were contacted simultaneously, except those for whom the AEC did not have contact details.

Group leaders

Group A, Our Sustainable Future

Elly Bird, leader of the Our Sustainable Future group.
Elly Bird, leader of the Our Sustainable Future group.

Name: Elly Bird

Council: Lismore City Council

Number of years in shire/LGA: 15

Current councillor? No
If yes, how many years?:


Clubs/sports/interests: Gasfield Free Northern Rivers, Lismore Lantern Parade, Social Justice, Environmental Protection, Arts & Culture, Renewable Energy, finding sustainable solutions to energy and housing needs.


Are you a member of any political party or an organised ‘ticket’? Yes – ‘Our Sustainable Future’


Brief description: “Our Sustainable Future” is an independent registered local government party. The party is purely focussed on local issues and is not affiliated with any other political party. Our Sustainable Future is committed to a vision that balances the needs of current and future generations, equally valuing our economy, our community and our environment.

  1. What has motivated you to stand?

I have spent the last five years as a leader in the fight against CSG in our region. In that time I have seen that our community is deeply committed to building a sustainable future that we can be proud of. Our community has strength, resilience and commitment to working together. I am standing for council so that I can help to bring that future into reality. I have been inspired by the good work of our Mayor Jenny Dowell and our current progressive council. I want to see that good work continue and see current initiatives consolidated. I am proud to call Lismore home and I am determined to see our reputation continue to grow as a leading council in sustainable initiatives.

  1. What is your vision for the LGA?

Our Sustainable Future wants to see Lismore become a sustainable city. We want council to meet it’s target of 100% renewable energy by 2023 and we want to work with our community to support further transitions by business and homeowners. We are committed to partnerships such as Farming the Sun, building community capacity to help fund and manage infrastructure and community projects. We want to see our LGA become a more enjoyable place to live, with cycle ways and footpaths and a vibrant CBD with community spaces such as the Cultural Hub and the new Art Gallery fully utilised and enjoyed by residents and visitors. We support the proposed Lismore Park upgrade in the centre of town, providing an improved, liveable, easily accessible community recreation space. We want more people to feel proud to call Lismore home, and to enjoy living here and being part of our community.

  1. In your opinion, how can council best balance the need for further residential development with the need to preserve the local environment?

Our demographic is changing, we have an increased need for higher density housing and for smaller housing options, and there is a need to increase availability of housing close to services like the hospital. Initiatives such as shop-top housing, encouraging granny-flats on existing properties, and sub-dividing large house blocks will all help to address housing availability. Providing incentives to developers to build in the health precinct will also help. These are residential developments that are building on existing residential land and infrastructure. This is good for the environment in two ways: It takes advantage of existing resource more efficiently and it stops greenfield developments destroying existing important habitat. Council also has a Comprehensive Plan of Koala Management and ecologists for assessing areas for development to ensure protection of the environment.

  1. What particular issues do you feel strongly about?

We are particularly passionate about embracing renewable energy and managing the effects of climate change; managing and maintaining our assets and infrastructure; caring for our environment and improving the condition of the Wilsons River; and maintaining full and adequate community consultation for all council decisions.

Mayoral candidate Mr Big Rob, who is heading a group of independents. (photo Darren Coyne)
Mayoral candidate Mr Big Rob, who is heading a group of independents. (photo Darren Coyne)

Big RobGroup D – Mayoral candidate

Independent, of no known address, was contacted at the same time as all candidates, and responded as follows:

“Please do not contact me again. I don’t like you. Regards Big Rob.”

Mr Rob then reposted an email exchange on numerous Facebook sites between himself and Echonetdaily journalist Darren Coyne, where he referred to Mr Coyne as an “unprofessional gronk”.

Echonetdaily has contacted the second candidate in Mr Rob’s group, Matthew Rawson, and is awaiting a response.


Group E, The Greens – Mayoral candidate

Vanessa Grindon-Ekins, The Greens.
Vanessa Grindon-Ekins, The Greens, mayoral candidate

Name: Vanessa Grindon-Ekins

Council: Lismore City Council

Number of years in shire/LGA: 22

Current councillor? Yes
If yes, how many years?: 12

Clubs/sports/interests: Member of Wilsons River Landcare demonstrating a positive way forward by planting trees on the riverbanks in the CBD, Presenter on North Coast Radio RiverFM 92.9 Australia’s longest running community radio station, Proud lantern maker and participant in Lismore’s Lantern Parade, Enthusiastic supporter of local art scene, Student of Iyengar Yoga, keen lap swimmer at Lismore Memorial Baths.

Are you a member of any political party or an organised ‘ticket’?  Yes The Greens

Brief description: The Greens core principals are ecological sustainability, social equality, grassroots democracy and peace and non violence. The Greens work at local, state and federal levels seeking better outcomes for our communities.

2 What has motivated you to stand?

I have worked hard with council staff and a progressive team of councillors on significant projects such as building a new art gallery in a repurposed building, making councils energy supply 100% renewable in the next 7 years, raising $500,000 every year to assist landholders and farmers to remove weeds, stabilise riverbanks and create habitat corridors in rural and urban areas, adopting economic and housing strategies to guide future development. These projects took years to plan and fund and I am keen to see them implemented.

3 What is your vision for the LGA?

I see a thriving community with apprenticeships and traineeships for our young people, a well funded and attended university and tafe, appropriate and affordable housing for our aging population and professional workers, rain water tanks and solar panels on all buildings, adequate cycle paths and footpaths and public transport between our villages and vibrant cbd, a sustainable farming sector and healthy natural environment. We are already working toward these outcomes by investing in water, sewer, road, waste and energy infrastructure, building partnerships with local business, housing, education and health organisations and consulting with our community to identify priorities. Lismore is already booming.

4 In your opinion, how can council best balance the need for further residential development with the need to preserve the local environment?

Our fastest growing industry and largest employer is health services and young professionals are moving to Lismore to fill these roles. Combined with our ageing population there is strong demand for small units instead of 3 to 5 bedroom houses. Council is working with developers and the building industry to make sure we have shop top housing in the cbd and affordable units around the Lismore Base Hospital. This intensification of our urban area reduces urban sprawl and protects farmland. Council also requires new residential development to be close to existing services like schools and shops and to incorporate koala habitat and creek restoration which creates better places to live.

5  What particular issues do you feel strongly about?

Walking and cycling are more popular than formal sports and yet Council has not invested in an adequate foot/cycle path network. We need to provide active transport options particularly between Goonellabah and the cbd.

Protecting our natural environment is a priority for our community so council is assisting landholders to plant trees, remove weeds and create habitat with a ratepayer funded biodiversity strategy. We need to continue these projects because our riverbanks are eroding and farms are loosing soil and our water supply and downstream environment is being polluted. Council decided that working with people and providing expert labour gets better results than rules and regulations.

Council activities have a big impact on our lives so I will make sure people are involved in local decision making with meaningful consultation, particularly our Aboriginal community.

Lismore Country Labor candidate Isaac Smith.
Lismore Country Labor candidate Isaac Smith.


Group H Country Labor – Mayoral candidate

Name: Isaac Smith

Council: Lismore City Council

Number of years in shire/LGA: 42


Current councillor? Yes

If yes, how many years?: 8

My Family is my focus, so enjoy spending time with my kids at soccer, dancing and school events.

I volunteer locally where possible including on the board of Football Far North Coast, The Winsome Soup Kitchen, Goonellabah Football Club, Centre Church and others.

Are you a member of any political party or an organised ‘ticket’?

Country Labor – Though party politics plays no part in local government.

Brief description:

I joined the Labor party in 2006 after feeling frustration in the last term of the Howard Liberal Government. I have supported many different political parties since turning 18 and I don’t believe that any one group or individual has the answers.

2 What has motivated you to stand?

Being local I am always looking to give back to my community. I have served 8 years on Lismore City Council and now with the retirement of our well respected Mayor Jenny Dowell, I am hoping to step up into the Mayoral role.

I want to continue the growth and push for sustainability we have started in the previous council term. Local Government is a big enterprise, so change comes slowly. In another term I will be able to support all the community initiatives that have made us a leader in NSW.

3 What is your vision for the LGA?

My driving motivation was to reduce the liabilities for future councils. After being left with debt from two swimming pools and no development, I wanted to make sure that fufuter councils had a foundation for Lismore’s future prosperity.

I am very proud to say that we are well down that road. Literally. We have a plan to fix the road issue which can be seen in the strategic shift and increased funding for our road network. Council has allocated an extra $10 million dollars when you compare with the road budget I started with, but best of all we are beign smarter about how that money is spent. Smaller amounts spent more frequently to seal roads is stopping them from falling apart and that is a long term strategy that will see us get back on top of this issue in the coming years.

Sustainability, both economic and environmental, is also a big issue. Lismore Council is the strongest in the region and was easily fit for the future under the State government review. But I am even more proud of our environmental projects that see us investing in community solar and committing to energy independence by 2023. We are also now supporting our farmer more through the Rural Landholder Initiative where locals are benefiting from dollars and knowledge that is improving farming practices and environmental outcomes.

Throw in the biggest development boom in Lismore’s history and you know that we are on the right course, with a balanced and sustainable approach.

4 In your opinion, how can council best balance the need for further residential development with the need to preserve the local environment?

We have put in place a number of initiatives to drive increased density in urban areas so that we don’t use valuable farmland on the city fringe. Reducing or eliminating fees for medium density dwellings in our urban core and the construction of granny flats is already having appositive impact. Add this to positive developments like the North Lismore Plateau, which is very close to town and on the western side, and you have a positive development platform with minimal environmental impact.

5  What particular issues do you feel strongly about?

Council must become more sustainable to stay independent in the future. With council’s under pressure to amalgamate and reduce representation and services, we must continue to speak with our community and deliver the services they expect, while balancing the bottom line.

We need to focus on the great projects we already have, before we start new ones. Lismore Regional Park is going to be a great development that boosts our CBD and supports local businesses and families. This new recreational space will provide amenity and services that so many people will travel to see and be a part of. IT will revolutionise our city in a way that no other developments can. We have a unique opportunity in our city as no other place has their major shopping centre right next to their CBD. This untapped potential will lift our CBD and City to a new level of community participation and recreation.


Group B – Mayoral candidate

Neil Marks, Group C
Neil Marks, Group B

Name:  Neil Marks

Council: Lismore City Couuncil

Number of years in shire/LGA: 26


Current councillor? Yes
If yes, how many years?: 8

Clubs/sports/interests: Supporter of Marist Brothers Rugby League Club (Ground Announcer) , Speedway (Commentator) Lismore Workers Football Club (ex player), Motorcycle Fanatic and general sports fan. Also enjoy theatre.


Are you a member of any political party or an organised ‘ticket’?  

I am running for council as an Independent as are all other members of Team MARKS. I am a member of the Nationals privately.

Brief description:

I am married to Deb and the proud father of 4 children. I have lived in Lismore since 1990 and have worked in the media as a broadcaster for 32 years. I have been involved in several small businesses over the years and my wife currently  runs an events and wedding planning/decorating business.

2 What has motivated you to stand?

To see the area grow both in size as our population growth is almost at standstill and in housing opportunity. Greater numbers of locals as well as visitors gives greater opportunities for business success and job creation.

3 What is your vision for the LGA?

A great place to live and raise a family with strong business opportunity. For there to be greater career opportunities without losing our youth to the cities.

4 In your opinion, how can council best balance the need for further residential development with the need to preserve the local environment?

With a greater emphasis on collaboration at an earlier stage with developers. Developers need to understand that we are building for the future and that requires great vision early in the process. We have already identified that there is a need for medium density housing in Lismore itself to cater for the ageing population and policy has been put in place to encourage this. There is also a great call for lifestyle blocks as these appeal to those wanting a tree change as opposed to a sea change. Lismore needs to be able to provide greater diversity in housing options.

5  What particular issues do you feel strongly about?

Growth in the area as a population and as a community, strong business and farming focus, job creation, strong financial leadership and to create an inclusive as peritoneal community.


Group G, 4 The Love of Lismore – Mayoral candidate

Gianpiero Battista
Gianpiero Battista

Name: Gianpiero Battista

Council: Lismore City Council

Number of years in shire/LGA: 22

Current councillor? Yes
If yes, how many years?: 8

Clubs/sports/interests: Keen Soccer enthusiast and fun runner. I lecture in Tourism and Business units. I also volunteer with Our Kids, The Darrell Chapman Fun Run and at Centre Church.

Are you a member of any political party or an organised ‘ticket’?

My ‘4 The Love of Lismore’ team and I are running for council as Independents. I am a member of the Christian Democrats privately.

Brief description:

Born in Milan, Italy I am a past owner of The Left Bank, Café Giardino and Café Verdi. I am married to my wife Rebekka and have two wonderful kids. I have a Degree in Tourism; Graduate Certificate in Marketing and in 2014 I completed my MBA (SCU). Rebekka and I have a strong love for our community, Rebekka through her work with Our House and Our Kids, and me through my involvement with Council.

2 What has motivated you to stand?

What motivated me to again stand for Council is my passion and continued love for the Lismore region. 22 years ago, I arrived in this area from Italy and remember being amazed at the beauty of the hills and valleys that make up our area. As a Councillor for the last eight years, I have had a role in the decision making process and I want to continue to help make a difference in my community and help maintain the love I had when I first came to this area.

Since I was elected to council in 2008, I believe I have achieved a great deal by simply listening, representing and working to achieve a fair outcome for my community. While on Council I am proud to have worked with you to help save the Goonellabah Library from closure, secure a long awaited lift for the Lismore Regional Museum and successfully introduce a 20% local content quota for all council tenders. I also worked to reprioritise unused council funding for the purchase of a Liberty Swing for Nesbitt Park in South Lismore. But there is much more still to do and I am passionate about seeing Lismore continue to grow for generations to come.


3 What is your vision for the LGA?:

My vision for the area is for Lismore to build on its potential and become a vibrant and healthy community that is sustainable and has a council that carefully invests the money they receive from the community in Rates and Charges. I believe we can do this by working to create an affordable and attractive place for Ratepayers to live and work. In bringing this plan about, my team and I will vote against the $2m rate rise proposed for 2017-18, carefully assess how your rates are spent in council and work hard to ensure your rates are affordable.

My team and I also want to see an end to the unaffordable parking strategy in place at the Lismore Base Hospital. This will be one of my top priorities if re-elected. My team and I also believe that the Lismore Lake Precinct is the place to re-establish a free entertainment area for our community. We need entertainment facilities which keep our ratepayers in Lismore but in return also attract tourist to our area.

The 4 The Love of Lismore team will also work with our local businesses to help grow job opportunities for Lismore for generations to come. It shouldn’t be the case that young people relocate to capital cities to work. Lismore has so much to offer and we need to be focused on championing that.

4 In your opinion, how can council best balance the need for further residential development with the need to preserve the local environment?

In order for Lismore to compete with its neighbouring local government areas, council needs to strongly work towards creating affordable housing developments that attract brand new people to our region. However in order to keep Lismore growing for generations to come, these developments need to be where services are already in place.

5 What particular issues do you feel strongly about?

I am passionate about seeing Lismore thrive! To do this our community needs to see growth and be competitive with our seaside cousins. Presently our area has the highest rates in the region, and this is not ok. Affordable rates means affordable living for our community and it is important that our council uses the community’s money wisely and efficiently. Let’s work together to build this city for generations to come.

Group C – Lismore Ratepayers Association – Mayoral candidate

Greg Bennett.
Greg Bennett.

Name: Greg Bennett

Council: Lismore City Council

Number of years in shire/LGA: 20+


Current councillor? Yes
If yes, how many years?: 4 years

Clubs/sports/interests:   Workers, Heights Bowling & Italo. Tennis, Golf. Interests – farming, organic farming, motor cycle riding, finance & business, share trading, chess, protecting property/individual rights.


Are you a member of any political party or an organised ‘ticket’?   The ‘ticket’ is the Ratepayers Association of Lismore Inc team. The Ratepayers team is not aligned to any political party. I do not believe that Party Politics should be involved in Local Government. I vote on merit and fairness, not on Party Political lines. I chair the NSW Farmers branch of the SFFP (the farmer’s party).


Brief description: The Ratepayers Association has a long history in Lismore. In 2010 the association was reformed and obtained the endorsement of the previous Ratepayers Association which had not operated for a number of years. I was involved in the formation of the Association and was its president from 2010-12 and from 2016 to present.


2 What has motivated you to stand?   I originally stood for Council because of the disappointing way Lismore City Council handled its 2010 Local Environment Plan (LEP). Council failed to inform landowners of the true impacts of E zones and overlays and in many instances failed to even inform landowners that their properties were impacted at all. I stood to bring openness and fairness to Council. I have spent the last four years fighting for this. During this time I stopped the expansion of paid parking in our CBD, challenged every budget and the accounts, was instrumental in opening briefings to the public, moved that Council become small business friendly, fought for the retention of the tip vouchers, opposed the 10 year NORPA contract which does not allow Council to rescind it and I was the sole councillor who opposed the selloff of our parks and open spaces. I have operated a facebook site for the whole term and posted on every meeting I have attended to keep people informed of what is happening at their Council.


3 What is your vision for the LGA? Respect, growth, jobs, appropriate development, a healthy environment and an economically sustainable Council. My goals include keeping rates increases to the absolute minimum, re-prioritising Council back to core services like roads and parks, regaining Regional City Status for Lismore, retaining and building strong transport links including reconnecting Lismore to rail, beautifying the CBD, respect for farmers and landowners rights, less red and green tape on our agriculture and business sectors and restoring the Lismore Lake Pool as a family friendly facility.


4 In your opinion, how can council best balance the need for further residential development with the need to preserve the local environment? The EP&A Act places a raft of protections in relation to residential development and protecting the environment. Councils roll is directing that development to areas which are appropriate and have the least amount of impact. Infill development and more medium density are two ways that this may be accomplished. I believe the current range of residential land releases at Lismore is about right. Where Council is failing however is in protecting our agricultural lands. Council has earmarked a stagging area for Rural Landsharing Developments (MO’s). If these areas are converted from their current agricultural activities much significant grazing and cropping land will be lost.


5  What particular issues do you feel strongly about? Individual and property rights. Reducing red and green tape on our business and agribusinesses. Affordability for our ratepayers. As one of just two Councillors who opposed Councils Hospital paid parking plan, I want to see it made fair and fixed. I have fought hard to save the Lismore Lake Pool and my notice of motion has saved it from being sold off and demolished. If re-elected I will do all I can to make sure that funds are found to restore it. Our roads are in terminal decline and need $5 million more spent on them each year just to stop them getting worse, I want to see Council get back to basics and fix core issues like bad roads and neglected parks.




Group leaders and mayoral candidates yet to respond include:

Mathew Sheibel, Group F, has responded, and was expected to reply by Friday.

The Echonetdaily has been in contact with Independent candidate Will Goode of East Lismore and is awaiting a response.



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  1. Interesting that Greg Bennett is refusing to proudly stand under the banner of the SHOOTERS FISHERS AND FARMERS PARTY coyly referring to it as SFFP.

  2. Simon Clough, don’t you have a retirement home to be in?

    Lismore LGA is struggling big time. Lets hope people start voting in people who’s sole aim isn’t to kill development. This is the only way we will start getting more affordable housing.

  3. The north lismore plateu development proposal is on sacred lizard dreaming land…if you want places for people to live…open up more mo s…people who escape the city dont want to come to another city….thats why people come to lismore…we want sustainable living where we can grow food not boxes to sit and watch telly….

    • yeah… because everyone wants to live in the bush eating mushrooms and using a composting toilet… just imagine the urban sprawl and environmental impact of doing this….

  4. John above, It is possible for Lismore to have an affordable, sustainable suburb virtually off the grid and at no financial cost to the ratepayers or council. All the mod cons but low carbon. Would make Lismore the Australian center for sustainability. Employment and job creation would be huge.

  5. I reckon the current Council has done a great job of focusing Lismore more genuinely towards environmental (and financial) sustainability. I’ve lived here since I was a kid, now have a teen of my own, and proud to live in such a great part of the country. Keep up the good work, Lismore!

  6. DEAR voter, interesting to note none of the candidates didn’t make a commitment to Not raise council rates beyond cpi. I appreciate the garbage collection, and the new public toilet in main st. both of which have immediate and essential benefits to all…That’s all I’ve seen, that our current local council has achieved that benefits all locals. We don’t all play sport or spend our time in a gallery. Beware voters, no matter who you vote for, I expect that we will all be paying more. Frankly, I have no idea who to vote for, goodluck with your choice. Thanks Jenny for your service to our community, although I don’t agree with all of your financial priorities. You were a recognisable figure in the life of ordinary people in our diverse community. I urge you to draw your parting comment from Douglas Adams.”Farewell and thanks for all the fish.”

    • Paul, personally i think the CPI rate pegging is a big mistake. Councils are constantly been given more roads and assets to maintain plus development assets are becoming more cost intensive (i.e. storm water treatment basins and devices).

      People complain about rates going up but then want the bees knees in services, assets and roads without pot holes. Something is going to lose out… either our services and roads or our back pocket.

      If councils (not just LCC) want to survive, be profitable and provide good community services they need to promote growth and development not drive development to other councils. The green left will jump down my throat but that is the simple economic fact.

      No I’m not a councilor and have no ties to any council.

  7. Please create and develop parks/picnic areas and beautiful spaces to enjoy our wonderful outdoor areas.. it is a major benefit to all sectors of society, it is a huge drawcard for me when voting. The richmond river access, the parks and walkways for the community need development. As do the areas for travellers at all entrances to lismore (there are none!) South Lismore (entrance to Lismore frm sth) would be a great place for motorists to pull up to have a coffee and lunch with their caravan! That pool was awesome.. bring back the picnics!! Make the place welcoming for those coming and those within.


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