Ballina Shire councillors managed to cover a lot of territory at their last meeting, which finished before a very late lunch.
Everyone was present except for Cr Sharon Parry. First up was the ongoing saga of South Ballina Beach, covered here, and the LEP Amendment for the new Northern Rivers Wildlife Hospital at Wollongbar, covered here.
Farmers market expansion
An expansion request for Ballina Farmers Market was approved at Commemoration Park, in spite of councillors expressing some concerns about parking. Following will be a DA, likely to request a doubling of the market size to sixty stalls.
Deputy Mayor Sharon Cadwallader said, ‘When you’ve got something like this the community is really responding to, I am very happy to support.’ Cr Eoin Johnston opposed the motion, but was overruled.
All councillors then voted unanimously to approve the development control amendment for rural function centres, discussed at previous meetings.
NSW Agritourism reforms
A discussion about proposed rule relaxations from the state government led to an entertaining rant from Cr Ben Smith, in which he said, ‘We should be making a submission to ICAC – this looks like a list of favours rather than a planning document.
‘None of this is consistent with the planning department’s own principles. It’s either someone’s wishlist or gross incompetence. I read through this and wasn’t very happy at all. It’s crazy and I don’t understand what they’re thinking. It’s completely inconsistent of their own principies of zoning RU1 and RU1,’ said Cr Smith.
‘It looks like someone gone to the department with a wishlist and they’ve waved their magic wand and given it to them.’
Cr Eoin Jonhston said, ‘I’m not as rabid as Cr Smith about it, but it is a bit like a show bag, something for everyone but not all good for you.’
After some more heated discussion, council agreed unanimously to send a strongly worded letter to the state government opposing the reforms.
Cr Jeff Johnson criticised the green credentials of some of council’s current investments, which include ‘green loans’ through fossil fuel aligned institutions. He suggested council could be investing in truly green institutions while still following state rules. ‘We could be doing much more,’ he said.
Cr Sharon Cadwallader said council was ‘doing everything it can’, noting it was projected that it would take ten years for the general fund to get back into surplus.
Cr Keith Williams said he was happy with the general direction and noted the last investment council did with a fossil fuel aligned institution was Macquarie Bank in 2020.
‘It’s very hard to avoid all the A rated investment options without linking up with some company that has fossil fuel investments,’ he said.
Cr Ben Smith said he felt the investment policy was the best council could do within the legal framework. Regarding climate change, he said the biggest issue was at federal level. ‘Leadership has been missing for over a decade,’ he said.
The motion was carried.
Attendance of councillors by AV link
Ballina Council objected to moves at a state level to make it more difficult for councillors to attend meetings via Zoom or Skype.
‘Why would you want to limit councillors being in council?’ asked Cr Jeff Johnson. ‘This is unnecessary red tape’.
Councillors agreed to minor changes to the policy, while the GM noted their feedback had gone back to the Office of Local Government.
Tenders were accepted for the Flat Rock Tent Park (Brookstay), Ballina Council workshop extension and roof replacement (AGS) and the Lennox Rural Fire Shed (AGS), as well as stormwater rehabilitation works and business development and marketing services for Ballina Byron Gateway Airport.
There was some discussion about the large backlog of council works after all the rain. Staff explained that they were taking on extra staff to deal with the problem.
In a lengthy discussion emerging from an earlier finance committee meeting, a rate waiver for Ballina Seagulls was considered and Cr Nathan Willis put a cat among the pigeons by raising the possibility of paid parking in Lennox Head.
Councillors discussed a forthcoming trip to the Marom Creek water treatment plant, which may be handed over to Rous County Council administration in the near future.
Stay tuned for a forthcoming interview in The Echo with Ballina councillor and Rous Chair Keith Williams about water issues in the Northern Rivers.
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