It was another epic council meeting at Ballina last week, both for the councillors and those keeping score at home via Skype.
First up was a discussion about the future of Lennox Head Community Market. While everyone agreed that returning to the old site by Lake Ainsworth was not an option, that was where the common ground ended.
Market on the move?
Cr Sharon Cadwallader urged council to consider new sites, possibly on the edge of town on Byron Bay Road, with the idea of emulating the success of Eumundi Market on the Sunshine Coast.
Cr Jeff Johnson said he thought the current site at Williams Reserve was working well but could be improved, particularly if shady and more sheltered areas could be used. As a market stall holder, he said he ‘totally refuted’ Cr Cadwallader’s comments that the Williams Reserve site was a failure.
Cr Ben Smith said council needed to ‘get a bit visionary’ and cast the net wider, with a view to a long term, dedicated market site, considering other council properties and opportunities.
Channelling his inner Kevin ’07, he urged his fellow councillors to ‘do something once and do it right’, instead of moving the market from pillar to post at every term.
Cr Phillip Meehan said there were no other suitable sites, and the demise of the existing market (at least prior to COVID) was greatly exaggerated.
Cr Cadwallader reiterated that the Williams Reserve was ‘not viable’, but her motion to look at moving the market to an entirely new site was lost.
Cr Nathan Willis asked staff if the Williams Reserve could become a carpark, at least temporarily, but his fellow councillors did not appear to take him seriously.
A revised motion to appoint a Market Manager to continue at Williams Reserve was successful, with Crs Cadwallader and Smith opposing.
The controversial development at 841 Fernleigh Road Brooklet was back in the sights of Crs Johnson and Williams.
After much heated discussion, the clincher for approval was a sealed road right through the property, rather than halfway, so as to cause less disturbance to the ‘iconic’ neighbours.
In a deputation, the proponent Perry Smith noted the ‘excessive resources taken to get here today, three years in planning and a year in council, a very costly exercise.’
Complaining of ‘backyard politicking and seeding disrespect from our major neighbour Gaia’, he said he felt genuine disappointment to be back at council, ‘mixed with genuine excitement and pride’ in his DA.
The compromise road sealing position was agreed to unanimously by councillors.
26 Endeavour Close, Ballina
After a short break, councillors returned to discuss the ever-contentious future of TS Lismore, the naval cadets training base in Ballina.
Cr Willis pushed for a continuation of a month to month lease, for six months, to keep the pressure up on the Royal Australian Navy to come to the party and resolve the problem of one tenant rarely using the facility and paying a peppercorn rent on what was now a very valuable property.
Cr Cadwallader pushed for an eighteen month option, saying ‘there needs to be consideration given to the 32 years of tenure TS Lismore have had at that site. They did all the building and construction.
‘The wheels of defence move slowly,’ she said, and it ‘would cost them a lot to move during this pandemic.’ Cr Cadwallader also noted that over 1,000 cadets had gone through the facility in its 32 years, with many later going into senior roles in the defence force.
Cr Keith Williams said he didn’t want to see the property sold. ‘I don’t think we should treat it on a commercial basis. This is a valuable piece of land performing a useful community function,’ he said.
‘The issue is the use of the site by more people. Here we have a fabulous piece of waterfront land that’s being used a couple of times a week, and that’s not good enough.
‘We need to get the RAN and TS to work out how to manage the site.’
Later discussion made it clear that the SES were not interested in taking up the site even if it became available.
In the end all but Cr Cadwallader supported the idea of continuing with a month by month lease for six months, and to receive a report on the use of the land for the benefit of the entire community.
Next up was the discussion of what should happen to the land near the motorway at Cumbalum, where the owner (St Francis Xavier Parish) sought to apply an R3 (medium density residential) zone to RU2 (rural landscape) land, in order to build more housing there.
Hot on the heels of this argument was a bigger tussle about the future of the Alstonville Cultural Centre, which came down to a 6:4 vote in favour of Byron Studios, in spite of an almost complete lack of community consultation.
This debate occupied quite some time and moved into confidential session for the financial section. Please see a detailed report here.
Soon after, Cr Sharon Cadwallader was elected the new Deputy Mayor of Ballina, replacing Cr Eoin Johnston.
Seven Mile Beach
After lunch, the major item of discussion was 4WD permits for Seven Mile Beach.
Several councillors expressed alarm at the imminent invasion of large numbers of Queenslanders with 4WDs hitting the beaches around Ballina with the extension of the ‘border bubble’ on 1 October.
Cr Eoin Johnston said ‘the ability of a person to come along with an unknown driving history and put seventy or eighty bucks in a slot machine and get a permit, seems too easy.’
He said some drivers were ‘running rampant on the beach’.
Cr Jeff Johnson asked staff if it would be possible to amend the current system and issue only annual passes.
The General Manager, Paul Hickey, said probably not for the current year, as fees and charges were already agreed.
Manager Strategic Planning Matt Wood said the current permitting system had generated the most compliance, noting that the absence of a permit ‘doesn’t necessarily stop people using the beach’.
Cr Cadwallader suggested pricing the short term permits up, like a motel. ‘Otherwise people might come on to the beach with no permit at all,’ she said.
Mayor David Wright said he would be meeting the new police commander with the GM soon to discuss the issue, as there was a need for more regulation.
However staff members said they didn’t expect any additional police to be allocated to the task in October, with rangers also facing over-work despite everyone being rostered on.
Cr Smith ventured the hope that one day an app based system might replace the ticketing machines, which could track driving behaviour as well as drivers, but this was left to councillors of the future to debate.
In the end, after a failed amendment by Crs Johnson and Willis to remove short term permits, nothing really changed, with councillors agreeing to keep things how they were for now and examine permit price points with the review of the Ballina Coastal Reserve Plan of Management.
The final major discussion was about the perennial Lennox Head parking problem, with thought bubbles floated about shuttle services from the edge of town (possibly autonomous), better promotion of underground options, and multi-storey car parking ruled out for fear that the village atmosphere of Lennox would be destroyed.
Cr Nathan Willis quoted Joni Mitchell, but added an addendum; ‘it’s really important that we don’t pave paradise, but we do need parking options.’
All councillors unanimously agreed to examine new approaches to the issue, including investigating the area of land bounded by Byron Bay Road and the Coast Road as a potential park and ride site.