Independent Ballina Shire Councillor Jeff Johnson has confirmed he’ll be running for mayor in September’s local government elections.
Ballina Shire Council candidate for The Greens Kiri Dicker revealed the former Greens member had the party’s support for his campaign two weeks ago, before Cr Johnson had publicly announced it.
Ms Dicker said the party decided not to run for mayor in the Ballina Shire election since none of the candidates have council experience, although Ms Dicker has campaigned as an independent.
Cr Johnson was asked last week to confirm whether or not the news of his mayoral campaign was true.
‘I will be putting my hand up again for the election, at the forthcoming council elections in Ballina,’ Cr Johnson said.
‘I’ve been on Ballina Council now, representing the community for the last three terms and I’m still passionate about representing my community and being involved so I will be nominating again,’ he said.
Cr Johnson refuses to give up on protecting Seven Mile Beach from ‘4WD tourism’
Councillor Johnson said he wasn’t giving up on his campaign to end what he calls 4-wheel drive tourism on Seven Mile Beach, despite failing to win majority support in the council for two recent motions aimed at restricting access to locals.
‘The motion went down 5-4, which was quite disappointing given we have the statistics and data in now,’ Cr Johnson said.
The latest data on 4WD permits at Seven Mile Beach showed more than a 50 per cent increase this financial year, Cr Johnson said, with about 90 per cent issued as single-day permits.
‘The number of vehicles down there who don’t even bother to get permits can be up to 50 per cent of the vehicles on the beach,’ he said, ’Council has installed a gate at the 4WD entrance however it is left open twenty-four seven’.
Cr Johnson said a few councillors were ‘happy to sit on their hands and wait for the Coastal Reserve Management Plan to be updated’, a process expected to take at least six months.
‘We can’t discuss it again in the next couple of months,’ Cr Johnson said, ‘but if I’m elected to the council I’ll certainly be bringing this up’.
Community first ‘within prescribed framework’ says Cr Johnson
Cr Johnson said addressing the local Northern Rivers housing crisis was also one of his priorities, having recently won the support of his fellow Ballina Shire councillors for a new version of the shire’s affordable housing policy.
But he expressed a cautionary approach to confronting concerns of inappropriate development.
‘I will always put the community first over developers,’ he wrote in a statement to The Echo last week, ‘but Council has to work within its prescribed framework otherwise we would just end up in court all the time and waste money and Council resources’.
‘That can be frustrating but as Mayor I would take those decisions very seriously,’ he said.
Jobs, economy and amenity on mayoral candidate’s agenda
Cr Johnson trying to maintain or improve Ballina’s local amenity and services was ‘key’, adding that the council was in a ‘very strong financial position’.
The independent councillor said as someone with a young family and a mortgage he understood the needs of families in terms of access to playgrounds, childcare, preschools and safe pathways to schools.
‘I’m also a business owner,’, the mayoral candidate said, referring to his local Premium Solar and Electrical company, ‘so I’m acutely aware that small business is the engine room of our local economy and a key driver of employment growth’.