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June 14, 2024

Chris Cherry – what she’s achieved on Tweed Council and visions for the future

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Chris Cherry is running with Lindy Smith, President of the Tweed District Residents and Ratepayers Association; Julie Boyd, from the Hastings Point Progress Association; Kristie Trudgett, a youth events and facilities advocate; and Trevor White from Tweed Water Alliance.

Chris Cherry (Independent) is the current Mayor of Tweed Shire Council and has answered the following questions on behalf of her team, Group D, who are seeking your vote on December 4 to represent you on Tweed Shire Council.

Ms Cherry was elected to the position of Mayor for the last year of Tweed Shire Council leading up to the elections following a five year Mayoral run by Katie Milne (Greens).

Ms Cherry is running with Lindy Smith, President of the Tweed District Residents and Ratepayers Association; Julie Boyd, from the Hastings Point Progress Association; Kristie Trudgett, a youth events and facilities advocate; and Trevor White from Tweed Water Alliance.

To find out about other candidates running in the Tweed Shire Council elections click here.

Candidate Questions

Tweed Shire Mayor, Cr Chris Cherry.

If you are an incumbent, what specific changes have you personally initiated and supported?

During my first term on Council I have tried to ensure that at Council we work as a team and respect each other’s differences. I measure our success in having at least 95 per cent of our decisions made by Council being unanimous and the remainder having respectful debate and at least trying to find a compromise position. I also instigated a fortnightly catch up with Councillors so that we can discuss issues and bring forward ideas we have.

I have formed the bi-partisan Cross Border Taskforce which has all of the state level MPs from our Northern Rivers Region leaving politics at the door. We have worked together for the good of the community in trying to improve the border restrictions in place from both the NSW and QLD governments during the pandemic. Together we have been able to achieve great improvements in the conditions both for small business and residents.

I have initiated getting Councils spend on local businesses in the community reported publicly so that we can have that information front and centre in all our buying and contract decisions. I believe we need to lead in local job creation.

I have also supported Council moving our major electricity contract to renewable energy produced in NSW. I believe our community want Council to be contributing to getting to carbon net zero as soon as possible.

Short Term Holiday Letting

What is your view on the new Short-Term Holiday Letting (STHL) rental legislation allowing any residential building in the Shire to be let on a short-term basis ie holiday, Airbnb etc?

Tweed is a beautiful place for people to live, and a great place for people to visit on holiday. STHL provides a great opportunity for residents to earn some money, especially when they are holidaying elsewhere themselves. This opportunity should not be what stops Tweed residents from having safe, affordable housing, especially in areas that are specifically zoned as residential. The core of Tweed is our community and we need homes ahead of hotels.

Do you think STHL should be allowed 320 days a year or limited to a fewer number of days? If yes, how many days do you think that should be?

I strongly support limiting STHL to 90 or 180 days across Tweed Shire, as this discourages investors buying up our homes to use as hotels and leaves them to be rented long-term as homes for locals.

How do you intend to impact homelessness in the Tweed?

Homelessness is everybody’s problem and we are working to try to fund more crisis accommodation in the Tweed to help in the short-term. We have been advocating to the State government to get more public social housing built on public land sites like the old Tweed Hospital site so that in the long-term our residents have safe, affordable housing. We also have the Wardrop Village proposal for 200 affordable homes that we are currently trying to get State government support for.

Chris Cherry is running with Lindy Smith, President of the Tweed District Residents and Ratepayers Association; Julie Boyd, from the Hastings Point Progress Association; Kristie Trudgett, a youth events and facilities advocate; and Trevor White from Tweed Water Alliance.


Do you support the commercial extraction of groundwater (eg for water bottling) in Tweed Shire?

The last drought showed us just how important our natural water resources are. I do not believe water bottling is the best use of our public water resources. The idea that people can take the water that belongs to everyone and sell it off does not sit well with me.

I remember seeing large B-double trucks carting water off to Coca Cola when we were in high drought and thinking ‘Are we going to be buying bottled water to keep ourselves and our gardens alive?’

Do you think that commercial extraction should allow existing water licences to remain as the status quo, allow an increase in water extraction, or pursue a reduction and elimination of commercial water extraction?

I think we should always try to improve on past mistakes. We need to rethink water extraction for bottling and move back to a scenario where water is kept in public hands.

Our communities, including our farmers, but especially our kids, deserve a future supply of safe, clean water and not dried-up muddy dregs.


The NSW Chief Scientist’s report on water extraction for bottling in the North Coast identified that we do not have enough information on the aquifers to ascertain what long term impacts the extraction is having. We already know that Australia is becoming drier.

I also think the world is changing and moving away from bottled water, which is great in terms of reducing the waste that the bottling process involves.


What is your position on the maximum building height limit of 13.6m that applies to the majority of the shire?

I think the community have been very clear in their desire to retain a maximum of three storey development across the majority of the Tweed. I strongly support that.

Concessions were made long ago to allow Tweed Heads to go higher, to allow density without letting the whole Shire become like the Gold Coast.

Construction of the Tweed Valley Hospital required rezoning (by the State Government) of protected farmland. What is your position on the protection of the remaining State Significant Farmland. Why?

I think it is imperative to protect the State Significant Farmland in our Shire, particularly in the face of climate change and the need for us to protect our local production and food bowl resources.

I pushed hard to have the new hospital built on a more suitable site, and I’m committed to protecting what we have left. There are not many places in Australia that have as reliable a rainfall as we do and we need to work with that. It is about protecting the future of our children.

Where do you stand on development in the Tweed, the need for growth and the balance with fabric and amenity, lifestyle, liveability and environment?

Development in the Tweed is needed and inevitable. It is the job of a Councillor to decide if that development is going to prioritise protection of the rights of existing residents. Getting our growth right is essential and I believe this next twelve months, while our Growth Management Strategy is developed, will be very important for our Shire. I stand for planning smarter, building better, and protecting the reasons we want to live here.

Coastal communities across the country are being ‘loved to death’ – resulting in significant impacts on infrastructure (roads, traffic, services etc), housing availability and affordability. What are your strategies on mitigating the impacts in these areas?

The problem of being loved to death, by events, by film companies, by tourists and locals alike is increasingly problematic and will become harder as Kings Forest and Dunloe Park are built.

Limiting short-term holiday letting to 180 days in our Shire would help. As would improving the hard infrastructure like pathways and car parks along the coast to allow people access while limiting the negative impacts.

It’s clear that improving local public transport would also help to limit congestion via better options for getting to and from our beaches, headlands and rivers.

We also have to think about a community’s capacity for continued inundation, in terms of multiple events in the same site, and try to make sure we get the balance right. The Woodford Festival site is a good example of a managed site that aims to both accommodate a huge festival and mitigate its impacts via a one-hundred year management plan. We need to take the learning that has been acquired at such sites and apply it locally.

Gold Coast Airport has an impact on Tweed ‘flight-path’ communities, with curfews regularly being tested. This will likely be exacerbated as the airport meets its growth targets. How would you work to mitigate this impact for the community? 

I have been an active participant on the Gold Coast Airport Community Consultation Committee for the last five years. I will make it a priority to work with the airport to get a southern noise monitor reinstated in Tweed as soon as possible.

I have advocated strongly to ensure flights that occur during curfew times are only for exceptional circumstances and that the curfew is upheld.

Should developers be allowed variations on the DCP, LEP and other planning controls or should these policies be strictly enforced?

We need to allow variations, because each site is different, and the circumstances are different.

The important thing is that variations should be limited to less than 10 per cent of the development, unless a reason is provided that satisfies Councillors that the variation is required in the circumstances and will not create poorly managed adverse impacts for neighbours and the community.

Would you prioritise community and environment or development?

The interests of the wider community and environment have always dominated my decision making. This is not an either/or question. Development can be great and we have some shining examples of businesses leading the way both economically and environmentally and they will always be better supported by our community.


Do you support Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration and strong action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions?

Absolutely. Onwards with the implementation! I want to be part of a Council that the community is proud of. One that shows leadership on climate change adaptation and the protection of our community.

Do you support stronger policies and increased funding to protect Tweed’s internationally significant environment?

I think the policies that are in place are generally very good, except some of the recent state legislation that does not allow local council to control logging of private native forests or allow Councils to protect koala habitat.

We are custodians of some of the most biodiverse areas in Australia, and we need to respect that at all times – it’s in our own best interest.

Do you support increased funding to protect Tweed’s internationally significant environment?

Increasing funding to the environment is an investment in our children’s future. I fully support it and believe that we would all reap the benefits.

Do you support allowing forestry in private native forests?

I think considering the amount of native forest already cleared in our Shire for grazing and farming there is no place for logging our private native forests.

At the end of the day we need timber to build houses and I would rather see it done sustainably than allowing clearing of old growth forests that are literally irreplaceable. Forestry can be managed in plantation timber, we know this.

I also call on the State government to provide local Council with the information on the forestry approvals given by the State government. Or failing that minimum level of transparency, let the State provide proper protection of ecologically endangered communities.


Do you support the Rail Trail, mutli-modal line or a train line? Why?

I support a dual use rail corridor with a cycle trail alongside a light rail.

I have been on these tracks in Europe and I cannot understand why they can make it work there but it is not possible here. I think we need to rethink public transport and this corridor allows an opportunity to do that – let’s not waste it!

Political party affiliation

Have you been, or are you, affiliated with any political parties? Please provide party name and membership period.

No, I have never been a member of or affiliated with any political parties.

If yes, how much will you be influenced by your party policies and agendas?


If the opportunity arose would you quit council to run for a state or federal seat?

State or Federal politics is not on my horizon. Until State and Federal politicians stop criticising each other and work for the common good of our community I am not very interested in joining them.

♦ Find out more on their campaign website.

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  1. Oh my goodness, Chris Cherry is the mayor and has supposedly heard all the arguments for a rail trail only, option.
    Yet she appears not to understand that the Burringbar Tunnel is 500 meters long and cannot fit more than either a train OR a rail trail.
    And that the 127 year old timber bridges are well and truly passed their use-by dates, and if to be used again, need to be completely rebuilt with modern concrete and steel.
    And that the landscaping to the sides of the rail formation, is fully shaped for high rainfall drainage, and by steep cuttings or drop-offs, leaving very narrow formation width.
    In order to effect a dual use corridor, we would need to finance a completely new design of phenomenally expensive Disneyland proportions.
    Voters need to go and have a look for themselves to determine the ludicrously fanciful candidates from the true dinky-die realists.

  2. Cr Cherry’s inability to understand why a “cycle trail” (sic) isn’t possible on the Tweed Valley corridor is a reflection on her inability to understand the engineering constraints and the reality that trains will never return to this old corridor.

    Before we start on that, let’s acknowledge that it isn’t a “cycle trail” but a “rail trail” a term that is used the world over to refer to a walking and cycling facility on a (usually abandoned) railway corridor. One third of users at other rail trails walk their journey. Terms such as “cycle trail” and “bike track” are used by detractors in an attempt to convey the misconception that the trail is not relevant to a section of the population who would not envisage riding a bicycle but would enjoy a walk.

    Unlike rail trails build beside working lines across flat terrain in highly populate areas of Europe, our corridor traverses the Burringbar Range through narrow cuttings and crosses gullies on embankments up to six metres high. A tunnel over 500 metres long passes 100 metres below the range. Contrary to the misinformation from many rail advocates, there are no alternative routes over or around the range. Mountain climbing equipment would be necessary to even attempt going over and the corridor is bordered on both sides by private land. The nearest bypass for the tunnel would be over the range on Tweed Valley Way between Stokers Road and Burringbar. Nobody would bother with our trail if that were the option.

    The tracks don’t stay neatly on one side of the corridor but swing from one edge to the other to ease the curves. Hence the trail would need to repeatedly cross the tracks to the side with space available or adjacent land would need to be compulsorily acquired at considerable extra expense. It would also then diverge from the narrow part of the terrain where it was remarkably possible to build a railway at all.

    Vast numbers of trees have grown up beside the tracks, especially in the almost two decades since the last train ran. Thousands of trees would need to be destroyed, chipped and disbursed. The soil disturbance and ensuing weed control problem would be enormous. Much of the amenity of the trail would be wrecked and the shade that is so important in our climate gone. This is anything but a “green” alternative.

    Huge amounts of earth would need to be moved, widening cuttings and creating a second formation for the trail. The stabilasation of this earth and the erosion control would be enormous undertakings in the steep country subjected to heavy rain in the wet season. Thousands of tonnes of foundation materials would need to be quarried and brought into to the site. Indications by the company who submitted tenders for both on formation and off formation options indicated that the costs were already similar except the off formation bid did not yet include an amount for “uncosted earthworks” to build a second formation and was “subject to sol testing” to determine if the soil beside the formation could support the trail foundation. In many places such as the Dunbible Valley, that soil is mud. We are talking of uncosted works in the millions of dollars. There is not the budget for this. It would have to be paid for by Tweed ratepayers.

    Drainage of rail formation is vital. It is bordered on both sides by an extensive network of drains. These must be retained so a second formation for the trail isn’t just a matter of popping a pile of dirt next to the rail formation. Several metres of clearing would be required and hundreds of pipes installed to carry the runoff under the second formation. There would be a greatly increased risk of waterlogging and collapse of the new formation plus damage to the old formation with any repairs needing to be covered by ratepayers.

    Anybody who imagines that the cost of building an off formation trail on the dirt beside the formation after clearing the trees would be similar to building it on a formation designed to support a train by simply removing the rails then spreading and grading the ballast needs a reality check. Yet this is what is being claimed by rail advocates.

    The section of the tracks north of Billinudgel was already slated for “major repair or complete replacement” before the last train ran in 2004. Being buried so long under thick vegetation has accelerated the decay of the wooden sleepers. The one in four replacement of the sleepers with steel ties had not progressed to this section. There is no possibly of putting trains back on these decrepit tracks. Nobody, government or private is going to fork out the vast millions to repair an asset that they could never own or liquidate when the venture failed.

    The project plan has always been to maximise the accessibly of our trail, especially given the aged demographic of this area. Last I heard they hoped to recover about half of the 26 bridges for use with the trail, providing a high level crossing over the watercourses rather than users having to negotiate muddy slopes down to a low level crossing as they do on the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. If these bridges are left much longer they will be beyond recovery, so unless a railway project is imminent, they are likely to be lost forever, which would be a great pity, especially for the heritage listed ones.

    The fact is there is no imminent rail project. In the many years passed since the trains stopped running there have not been any proposals submitted. Several weeks after the corridor was closed and dedicated as a trail, some of the principle actors from local rail advocate groups NRRAG and TooT registered a not-for-profit company that claimed they intended to repair and reopen the whole 130 km of line to Casino then undertake and extension to Queensland.

    This company has no employees and not even enough money to hire a manager, let alone prepare a business plan. They are funded by $20 subscriptions, mainly from old age pensioners who almost entirely make up their members, yet they propose to undertake multibillion dollar projects. It is a farcical attempt to stop the rail trail being built on the formation.

    Finally, voters should note that Chis Cherry has voted against the motions to enable the rail trail right up to the last council meeting. She voted against the motion to accept the millions of dollars in funding. If she had had her way, there would be no rail trail at all.

  3. Chris Cherry has been an excellent mayor and has earned the full support of the community.

    There are so many important issues that she has managed intelligently in a consistently balanced and equitable manner.
    The rail trail just one issue, which needs to be seen in perspective, it is going ahead for the good of walkers, cyclists and horseriders, which is great.
    Best wishes Chris, hope you are returned to council.


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