Another independent Byron Shire councillor has announced intention to run in September’s local government elections, bringing the ticket tally for independents so far to six.
Cr Basil Cameron is yet to announce whether or not he has a team of candidates joining him in his election campaign but says he’s running for the position of mayor, joining a competition that as of Tuesday morning featured six men and zero women.
The mayoral position is of key significance, Cr Cameron says, particularly after the resignation of Simon Richardson earlier this year.
‘It’s a critical change,’ Cr Cameron says, ‘we really need experience and a good understanding of the way the council works’.
Youth, business and creatives to be invited back to council table
The independent councillor says he is offering ‘new leadership’ and that it’s time for an end to ‘factional fueds’.
A media release this week said the ‘fueds’ had ‘divided Council and diverted attention away from resident priorities for too long’.
‘I always have and always will put the community voice first,’ Mr Cameron said via the release, ‘I will bring fresh community-first leadership to Council and encourage a respectful environment where all voices are listened to.’
The media release went on to outline how Mr Cameron would reinstate a Byron Shire Youth Council and Business Roundtable, if elected, and would push for the creation of a new Creative Industries Roundtable.
Dunoon Dam ‘a bad choice’, says independent Byron mayoral candidate
Cr Cameron has served as Byron Shire Deputy Mayor on-and-off again for an accumulated total of five years, after first being elected to the council as an independent in 2008 and being re-elected twice since.
He says he had to take on significant mayoral duties during a two-year period as deputy between 2010 and 2012 when then-mayor Jan Barham started to take on other commitments to state parliament.
The independent councillor is chair of the council’s finance and infrastructure committees and is a Byron Shire Council representative on the Rous County Council, which has the daunting task of planning future water security for much of the Northern Rivers after years of intensifying extreme climate events including drought, flooding and bushfires.
The Rous County Council has attracted focus over the past year or so thanks to controversy over a proposed, then scrapped, idea of a new dam in the hinterland.
Most recently, a petition with more than 10,000 signatures in support of investigating the Dunoon Dam option has prompted Rous County Council staff to recommend councillors reconsider it for the Future Water Plan 2060, alongside investigations of local groundwater supplies, desalination and water recycling.
But Cr Cameron says the Dunoon Dam is ‘a bad choice’.
‘I seconded the motion in December last year to move away from a dam as part of our future water strategy and that’s where I still am, I haven’t changed my position at all,’ he told The Echo on Tuesday.
‘As a region, we need to move towards a more diversified and decentralised series of water sources,’ he said.
Ballina Shire Councillor Sharon Cadwallader recently described the Dunoon Dam as the region’s most cost-effective option for water security, but Cr Cameron says cost isn’t the most important consideration.
‘It’s security,’ Cr Cameron says, adding that the council already has information predicting a 22% drop in rainfall over the next forty years, offering little hope in the ability of a new dam to meet local needs.
Public transport infrastructure key priority for Cr Cameron
Cr Cameron says public transport and infrastructure will be one of his top priorities for the shire if he is elected and that Byron deserves a ‘fairer share’ of state taxes for such projects considering the revenue the NSW government would be receiving via the local tourism industry.
In the meantime, he says there’s ‘much more’ the council can do, including amending developer contributions plans to help improve public transport facilities such as bus stops, future rail shuttle stations, access ramps and interchanges.
The independent councillor also wants to see a public transport trial between the northern and southern parts of the shire and is calling for diversification of transport infrastructure in the region.
‘We’re really reliant on one road: the Pacific Highway,’ Cr Cameron says, describing the intersection between the highway and Byron’s northern entrance via Ewingsdale Road as an example of poor infrastructure planning.
‘A focus will be on bringing people together so that we can move forward on much needed projects such as activating the rail corridor for all and a faster rollout of safe connected bike and walking paths,’ Mr Cameron said in his media release.
Speaking to The Echo later, Cr Cameron described a vision for Byron’s rail corridor that included rail ‘shuttle’, walking, and cycling facilities.
Independent mayoral candidate supports council’s housing ideas
Cr Camerson says the council has recently made progress towards addressing the region’s housing crisis through it’s Community Land Trust initiative and what he calls ‘a suite of affordable housing policies’.
He lists plans for housing projects at the old Mullumbimby Hospital and Lot 22 near the Mullumbimby Community Gardens as well as an existing project next to council chambers in Mullumbimby’s Station Street as examples of what the council can achieve.
The council has also recently amended rules around developer contributions, he told The Echo, with more funds to be allocated to affordable housing.
Cr Cameron says if he becomes mayor, he’ll be advocating to the NSW government on behalf of the Byron community.
‘I am asking for your number one vote for mayor,’ he says, ‘so that together we can build a sustainable path forward for our shire.’