Independent Ballina Shire Councillor, mayoral candidate and Rous County Council Deputy Chair Sharon Cadwallader has again failed to win majority support for a new water science team.
Cr Cadwallader first put the proposal to fellow Ballina Shire Councillors at their ordinary meeting in August, where she only managed to persuade independent Cr Eoin Johnston.
But the mayoral hopeful was allowed to present the motion again within three months thanks to having the signed support of two other councillors: Cr Johnston and independent Cr Stephen McCarthy.
Cadwallader continues Dunoon Dam campaign
Her second version of the motion came with an extra suggestion referring directly to the dumped option of a new hinterland dam in Dunoon.
The first part appeared exactly the same in September as in August: ‘that Council write to the Minister for Water, The Hon Melinda Pavey MP and Deputy Premier The Hon. John Barilaro to highlight the need for an independent scientific research organisation that would examine all aspects relating to water in our Richmond/Wilsons River catchment area, including Water Security, all options including desalination, Flood Mitigation, Water Quality and River Health and the potential economic development opportunities and other benefits that would flow from the research’.
The new team’s purview appeared almost identical to water management responsibilities already tasked to the Rous County Council, which includes two members of the Ballina Shire Council, Cr Keith Williams being the Rous County Council Chair.
But Cr Cadwallader has repeatedly voiced dissatisfaction with the Rous decision to abandon investigations into the option of building a new hinterland dam in Dunoon.
The 2021 mayoral candidate has long stated her pro-dam position as part of her election campaign and her latest attempt to revive the project was to have a new, independent team consider it.
In September, Cr Cadwallader expanded on her failed August motion by proposing ‘that Council seeks ministerial support for completion of detailed cultural heritage and biodiversity assessments associated with the proposed Dunoon Dam, in consultation with relevant Traditional Custodians, prior to finalisation of the Regional Water Strategy’.
Traditional custodians have spoken against the dam but Cr Cadwallader has repeatedly complained that a cultural heritage assessment report was never finished.
Mayor casts vote in support of status quo
This time, as predicted last week in The Echo, the independent councillor managed to win enough support to require a casting vote from the mayor.
Cr Nathan Willis was absent from the August meeting and in September proved to be an extra voice in support of Cr Cadwallader’s motion.
But the other votes didn’t fall quite as speculated.
Rather than follow the example of Cr McCarthy as he did when it came to an affordable housing project on Ballina Island, the younger independent Cr Ben Smith again voted against a new water science team.
The mayor is known to have changed his mind on significant proposals before, including on the same housing project, but this month stuck to his initial vote against Cr Cadwallader’s proposal.
Instead, it was independent Cr Phillip Meehan who changed his vote in support of the expanded motion.
Ballina Council refuses to sell Marom Creek infrastructure to Rous
With all ten councillors present at the September meeting, Cr Meehan’s swing meant the vote resulted in a five-five tie.
The mayor used his casting vote to support the status quo of a region guided by the Rous County Council when it comes to water security.
But the council also voted at the same meeting not to sell its Marom Creek water supply infrastructure to the Rous County Council as requested.
The council instead voted in support of Cr Cadwallader’s proposal to have the general manager negotiate supplying Rous with surface water from the plant.
Crs Williams and Jeff Johnson were the only two to vote against Cr Cadwallader’s Marom Creek plant motion.