By Luis Feliu
The election of a former councillor and anti-high rise candidate, who bagged the seventh and final seat on Tweed Shire Council after yesterday’s knife-edge preference distribution, has narrowly tipped the balance of power to a progressive majority.
Kingscliff’s Ron Cooper took the vital final spot, with the help of preferences flowing from Cr Bagnall, after the tally of last Saturday’s poll was finally officially declared yesterday afternoon.
The result will be be confirmed today, barring any call for a recount overnight, and it now looks as if incumbent Greens mayor Katie Milne, who topped the primary-vote count, is set to be re-elected mayor in a fortnight now that four progressive candidates have a majority.
She will again face a conservative bloc led by National Party veteran Warren Polglase, who came second in the poll.
They are the only surviving councillors from the last four years.
The five new faces, in order of election after Crs Milne and Polglase, are: Murwillumbah businessman Pryce Allsop (who was backed by Nats members), the Liberal Party’s James Owen, Labor’s Reece Byrnes, and unaligned community campaigners Chris Cherry and Ron Cooper.
Two other former councillors and bitter foes, Murwillumbah cafe owner Gary Bagnall and Kingscliff’s National Party backed Carolyn Byrne, missed out, while octogenarian Phil Youngblutt, a Nat from Murwillumbah, retired before the poll.
Cr Milne, who battled serious health issues this year, is tipped to get the support for the mayoralty from the three new progressives Cherry, Byrnes and Cooper when council holds its next meeting on Thursday, 17 November.
And instead of previous practice where the mayor is elected by other councillors for a 12-month term, the new mayor will now be elected for two years.
Also, the referendum conducted in conjunction with last Saturday’s poll failed to get support for an increase of councillors from seven to nine. (The latest count showed 63.4 per cent against, 33.3 per cent in favour and 3.3 per cent informal.)
The campaign for the election, which was rescheduled in September due to the death of Kingscliff candidate Ken Nicholson, was quite drawn-out, with the Tweed poll also having a history of a knife-edge preference result for the vital last seat, which usually determines which faction has the majority.
Mr Cooper praised his late friend ‘Stents’ Nicholson after his win, telling media the quietly-spoken and good humoured Mr Nicholson would have been ‘jumping for joy’ over the result.
Community candidate Chris Cherry, the Pottsville Community Association president, who over the years kept an eye on council debates over contentious issues on the Tweed Coast, said she felt positive about the outcome, which could result in a team ‘working together’.
[More to come]