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Byron Shire
December 4, 2022

Are extra powers for local mayors needed during COVID-19?

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While Byron Shire Council today debates giving far-reaching emergency decision making powers to Mayor Simon Richardson, Tweed Shire has already provided these powers to their mayor while Ballina’s mayor and councillors say they aren’t needed.

Ballina has not considered any extra powers for the mayor,’ said Ballina Mayor David Wright.

‘I work very closely with senior staff and this works well.’

Ballina Councillor Ben Smith told Echonetdaily that, ‘It greatly depends upon the dynamics between the Mayor and the general manager.

Ballina Mayor David Wright. Photo Eve Jeffery.

No extra powers needed in Ballina

There is no scenario where in Ballina Shire such a motion would be required. Our GM and management executive have been extremely proactive with regards to the COVID-19 situation. Staff initiated the initial response which provided over $800k of assistance to our community and they had covered all of the issues Councillors had discussed by the time it was put on the table, this demonstrates our processes are working and that staff and council are on the same page.’

Ballina Councillors Sharon Cadwallader and Jeff Johnson were both in agreement.

While a lot of councils are doing this I don’t believe it is necessary for Ballina Shire Council as the General Manager has very broad delegation which covers almost all situations,’ said Councillor Cadwallader.

‘One such example was when I asked to convene a meeting at council with the view to setting up the Business Connect Hotline, the General Manager facilitated that process without any hesitation or red tape standing in the way. That Hotline now established is proving to be a valuable resource during COVID-19 for both businesses and community members.’

In fact Councillor Johnson went so far as to say that he would be unlikely to support such measures for Ballina Shire Council.

Within the Ballina Shire there are committees of staff that have been making decisions based on the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions and other measures that they feel are necessary to provide greater safety to our community. 

‘I’m not sure what circumstances would require extra powers to be given to the Mayor and I’d be hesitant to support such a move. 

I have just finished a zoom meeting of the Council and these appear to be working well. If there are decisions that are required to be made by Councillors i’m sure a zoom or other type of software could be held to get a quick decision from the majority of Council.’

Mayor of Tweed, Cr Katie Milne and Deputy Mayor, Cr Chris Cherry. Photo supplied.

Tweed Council took action in early April

The NSW Government sent out advice for all Council’s to review their delegations in light of the pandemic.,’ said Tweed Mayor Katie Milne.

‘Tweed resolved to make delegations on the 2 April meeting. I did include extra conditions so the delegation is to the Mayor and/or Deputy Mayor and General Manager jointly, and that it can only be used for issues that cannot be deferred to a future Council meeting.

‘Our main concern was that we might not be able to reach a quorum if the majority of our Councillors fell ill.  Council would not be able to fully function under such circumstances as certain decisions such as budgets and major contracts cannot be delegated to the staff.’

The delegation was passed unanimously by all councillors at the 2 April meeting said Councillor James Owen.

However, Deputy Mayor Chris Cherry confirmed that,’here in the Tweed we plan to continue having online webcast meetings to allow the full democratic process to continue occurring as per usual.’

♦ Lismore City Mayor Isaac Smith and Lismore Councillors were contacted but did not respond prior to publicaiton.

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