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Byron Shire
June 18, 2024

Ballina Council wrap-up

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This month’s Ballina Shire Council meeting discussed dogs, developments, water, money, movies and Lake Ainsworth.

A contentious DA blocking views in Mosman Chase, Visions Estate, accounted for many pages of notes and photographs in council briefing notes, as well as depositions from both sides, including one quoting the Hippocratic Oath, but was settled amicably with the owners agreeing to slightly adjust their roof pitch.

The whole thing served as a reminder that covenants set up by developers don’t mean very much when it comes to the crunch and council needs to become involved.

Mayor David Wright thanked the speakers for their ‘passionate words’ and input.

Investments

In a discussion of council investments, Deputy Mayor Sharon Cadwallader thanked staff for pursuing green, environmentally sustainable investments (although a quick look at where the money is going reveals these are still in the minority).

Cr Sharon Cadwallader. Photo supplied.

She said climate bonds were worthy of further investigation as a way of mobilising capital towards assets that help the low carbon economy, suggesting ‘It may be far more effective to invest in green products rather than not investing in fossil fuel institutions.’

Councillors agreed to a one dollar rise in camping fees at Flat Rock, with more changes expected as the park manager position goes to tender in 2021.

Cr Phillip Meehan wondered if customers were being lost to other places because of the two night minimum stay rule.

Council staff said they would look into this.

Alstonwood

On the issue of the temporary movie studios at Alstonville, Cr Nathan Willis said, ‘The forecast income for the Alstonville Cultural Centre has increased by $10,000 to $20,000.

‘I guess I wanted an update on what’s happening at the moment with the Alstonville Cultural Centre and how much we’re making and was it worth the displacement of the community and have we seen millions of money flowing to Alstonville as a result of our decision?’

This question was tossed to Kelly Brown, the Director of the Corporate and Community Division of Ballina Council, who said the previous hirers have moved out of the facility, with Byron Studios not due to start their hire until 1 December.

In regard to community benefit, Ms Brown said she’d received phone calls in support, but ‘we’ll have to wait and see what happens, when they get up and running.’

Cr Willis asked if there was any way to monitor community benefit. GM Paul Hickey said there had been a lot of meetings with Byron Studios recently, with the transfer happening a month later than had been planned, which was frustrating to all concerned.

He said it was up to everyone to monitor the success of the idea, and that council staff also had some concerns.

SES

A recent gathering at SES HQ in Ballina. Photo David Lowe.

On the issue of the Ballina SES HQ, Cr Cadwallader said it was clear from discussions with the SES that their preferred option was to expand on their existing central site, with updated concept plans to come.

Cr Keith Williams thanked staff for their work on their report, and the efforts to minimise impacts on the parkland adjoining the existing site as the SES HQ expands.

‘It’s desirable that we try to keep our open spaces and our green spaces,’ he said.

No Beatles in sight

There was a lengthy discussion about the pedestrian crossing on Crane Street Ballina, east of Martin Street, with council responding to the suggestion from the RMS that the crossing be removed for safety reasons.

Cr Cadwallader said, ‘This is a non-compliance issue. We need to follow the rules and do what’s necessary here. I would have thought for pedestrian safety it’s an imperative. Some people would like the crossing to stay, but this is something we need to pursue for safety.’

Cr Nathan Willis. Photo supplied.

Cr Willis said the crossing was looked at in 2015, and again in late 2019, ‘and they found more cars than pedestrians at that moment in time.

‘On the basis of some magic formula I will never understand, that means the pedestrian crossing technically must go?’

Staff said that was correct, in spite of some strong opposition from community members.

John Truman (Director, Civil Services Division, Ballina Council) said RMS had asked Ballina to review all crossings.

‘They thought there were too many,’ he said.

‘The balance has to be between safety and pedestrian access. If there are low vehicle numbers and low pedestrian movements it increases risk, because people don’t expect a crossing.’

Cr Willis said that while he understood what the RMS were doing, and where staff were coming from, the community submissions to keep the crossing were ‘some of the most strongly worded’ he had read.

Cr Meehan said the crossing was originally built for a nearby school which no longer uses it, and he would support its removal.

What if there’s an accident?

Cr Eoin Johnston said that now council knew it was non-compliant, ‘If someone gets hit down the track, what happens then?’

Cr Ben Smith said ‘there is the whole risk management aspect’ but no history of near-misses or accidents in the area that he was aware of.

‘There are lots of things council does that aren’t perfectly to standard but we do them anyway because they fit our overall objective.

‘There’s no reason we can’t keep it,’ he said. ‘Honestly, it’s fine.’

Cr Cadwallader disagreed, but was overruled on the casting vote of Mayor Wright, who changed his mind and decided to maintain the status quo.

Because of Christmas, the next meeting of Ballina Council will be held early, on 17 December.


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