A very distinct, black flat-cap has just been thrown into the ring for the upcoming Byron Council elections, pegged for September 4.
The headwear belongs to Mark Swivel, the co-founder of community legal service Barefoot Law, who also moonlights as the unofficial leader of Mullum’s famous Russian choir, Dustyesky (which is where the hat comes from).
Oh, and he also launched a political party that made a Senate tilt at the last federal election.
Clearly he doesn’t have enough going on, so ‘Swiv’ as he’s known around the traps, has decided to stand for Byron Council as an independent at the elections in March.
Joining him on the team will be longtime local and sustainable tourism specialist, Meredith Wray.
There is talk that they may be joined on the ticket by Byron’s 2021 Citizen of the Year, Zenith Virago, but she is yet to formally commit to running.
The Echo caught up with Mr Swivel during the week (we had to run because he was moving quite quickly at the time) to ask a few key questions about his latest foray into the weird and whacky world of politics.
What is the main motivation behind your decision to run for Byron Council?
It’s time – this is a natural extension of what I’ve done in the community with Barefoot Law, Enova Energy, Spaghetti Circus, Eureka FC, and Bay FM. Meredith wants to bring her expertise in sustainable tourism to improve visitor management planning and leave a legacy after her long career here.
Byron needs a storyteller to connect locally, in Macquarie Street and the wider world. We want to tell Byron’s story of energy, creativity and diversity – of where we’ve been and where we’re going as a community.
Arguably the biggest issue facing our community is the housing crisis. If elected, how do you intend to address that crisis?
We need to direct every policy lever to this genuine emergency – from DAs to zoning, from enforcement action to lobbying. Byron exemplifies the national problem of bad housing policy that favours the better off and damages our communities.
We will support the push for a 90 day cap on short-term holiday letting and all policies that can deliver more homes in Byron Shire.
Do you support the implementation of paid parking in Brunswick Heads?
Should we have different policies for different towns? Paid parking makes sense across the Shire to raise revenue and meet costs. Locals can use parking permits. Visitors can pay to access our town centres as they do all over Australia and the world.
Are you willing to stand up and vote according to your principles even though it will at times mean angering dozens of locals and being pilloried on social media?
Do you support the attempt to put trains back on the tracks in the Byron Shire?
No, sadly. Discontinuing regional railway was one of the worst decisions in our economic history. However, the trains are not coming back. As in neighbouring shires, Byron should accept that reality and plan for a future that opens up rail trail corridors to locals and visitors, connecting the shire, adding to how we all get around and enjoy this place!
Answers by independent councillor candidates, Mark Swivel and Meredith Wray.