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Byron Shire
November 28, 2021

Cr Johnston echoes calls for Dunoon Dam option in new mayoral campaign

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Independent Ballina Shire Cr Eoin Johnston (PIC SUPPLIED)

Independent Ballina Shire Councillor Eoin Johnston says he’s long had a secret desire to become ‘some sort of a politician’ and the position of mayor is next on his agenda.

Cr Johnston’s first term on the council was extended twice owing to COVID 19 restrictions and he says he’s proud to have helped slow down 4WDs on Patches Beach, introduce a dedicated police officer to Alstonville and support his community in less obvious ways, like ringing engineers when around fifteen houses near him were cut off by flood waters in 2017.

The independent was one of five to have announced a run for the position of mayor as of 1 November, with current serving Mayor David Wright yet to declare his intentions.

Fellow serving independent in the same C Ward, Sharon Cadwallader, announced her run months ago and Cr Johnston this week echoed her calls for the option of new dam in Dunoon to be included in strategic water management investigations for parts of the Northern Rivers overseen by the Rous County Council.

More studies needed for Dunnon Dam, says Johnston

‘It was just over twelve months ago that we were told the Dunoon Dan was the option after twenty years of planning and geological and sociological and environmental studies,’ Cr Johnston told The Echo on Monday.

‘Well, it was sort of five, six months later, it was a 180 degree turn,’ Cr Johnston said.

‘There were certain areas about indigenous heritage and cultural significance that had not been properly investigated,’ Cr Johnston said, ‘and then there was the issue with flora and fauna, which they say was not properly investigated’.

Doubts over Alstonville aquifer sustainability

Cr Johnston said his main concerns around future water sustainability centred around the Alstonville plateau, part of the C Ward he represents.

Rous County Council flagged the option of water extraction from the plateau in its adopted plan earlier this year, with Chair Keith Williams, also a Ballina Shire councillor and Labor candidate for mayor, saying the targeted reservoir was much deeper than that used by farmers.

But Cr Johnston wasn’t convinced there was enough scientific evidence to guarantee farmers their more shallow aquifer wouldn’t be affected, pointing to comments made by the NSW Chief Science Officer as part of an investigation into water extraction for the bottled drink industry.

The CSO said there wasn’t enough data on water quantities underground to determine whether or not they could sustain persistent extraction for bottled water and recommended more research.

The study stopped short of investigating potential impacts of extraction for other purposes, such as farming and town water supply.

‘We’ll be full of Queenslanders again’: mayoral candidate wants to slow down 4WDs on beaches

Cr Johnston said Cr Cadwallader asked him to join her team in the 2021 election campaigns but he declined the invitation because he wants to be truly independent.

He said he used to be ‘a Labor Party fellow’ before the turn of the century, helping Tom Mooney stand for the ALP in a federal campaign but that he’s also been a supporter of long -serving former Nationals Member for Ballina Don Page and thinks current Greens member Tamara Smith is ‘doing a very good job’ in the seat.

The independent candidate listed infrastructure on Lennox Head, 4WDs on beaches and law and order in Alstonville as his key concerns besides the Dunnon Dam, before saying he was passionate about homelessness too.

‘It’s legal for people to get up there, but it’s being exploited,’ Cr Johnston said of Seven Mile Beach on Lennox Head.

‘People all over Australia are desperate to get away from wherever they are,’ he said, ‘now the borders are barely open again, we’ll be full of Queenslanders again’.

Infrastructure and law and order on campaign agenda

Cr Johnston said the council was having ‘a hell of a time now with the primary school’ in Lennox Head, ‘getting it up to scratch’ and ‘whether the work starts soon enough’ after it was meant to have started two to five years ago.

Education facilities were primarily a state matter but Cr Johnston said he would lobby the government for improvements on infrastructure in Lennox including the school and roads.

He said while NSW Police described crime in Alstonville in minor terms, for those who lived there, including elderly residents, the likes of a break-in were serious and he would renew an earlier push for more dedicated policing there.

Cr Johnston spoke passionately about homelessness, saying he was particularly worried about the prospects of older, single, unemployed women in the Ballina Shire and that he supported the work of fellow Cr Jeff Johnson in pursuing community housing projects.

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  1. No Motivation. It seems that none of the five mayoral aspirants are motivated enough to capture the Green vote.
    So the number show just what happens, of why we have five candidates and none showing leadership above the others.
    You might as well put a name on five pieces of paper and throw them in the air.
    The first piece of paper that hits the round is the mayor.
    Or we select David Wright again.
    There is NO imagination or motivation in this drudge of a council.

    • Unfortunately it’s just middle aged people addressing middle aged problems, no foresight, no questioning statas quo, always folding to a couple of out of touch farmers or business owners.

      Imagine imbraceing our local areas unique fauna and flora, indigenous heritage and oldest continuous subtropical rainforest on earth as a go to point for inspiration on policy, future planning and development and tourism instead of like “big dam good, people in suburban Ballina need water for weed and feed”.

    • Emily, what a load of nonsense you have written, why would anybody in Ballina LGA. Want to “capture the Green vote? We’re doing just fine without a single Green in Ballina Council, they’re the last thing we need after the mess they’ve made of Byron. Both Jeff Johnson, (was once a Green) and Keith Williams have strong environmental records as long as your arm. A good idea would be to throw all the Greens in the air and hope that a strong wind blows them all away.

  2. Really the typical Tory call “ law and order”. I live in alstonville and I don’t understand that call, can tell you it is pretty well a figment of their imagination. His political affiliations obviously suggest another Nat independent. Come on own up. Talking of dams, again putting all the eggs in one basket again.

  3. I feel for the Indigenous people having to fight yet again to stop the nonsense of another dam. Don’t our councillors care about anything but a quick fix?
    If the Alstonville aquifer is not going to produce enough water, why is the bottled water industry allowed to extract any of it?
    And finally I have lived in Alstonville for over 20 years and I ask what crime? Alstonville is a town where I feel safe enough to walk around the village at night and I am over 70. Luckily our local policeman is a kind person and doesn’t seem to go in for bully boy tactics. Let’s keep it that way.

  4. ‘It was just over twelve months ago that we were told the Dunoon Dan was the option after twenty years of planning and geological and sociological and environmental studies,’ Cr Johnston told The Echo on Monday

    And then they finally determined it was NON-VIABLE, and decided to move on to working on way of supplying the region’s demands in the given time period. That’s how it works Eoin.

    • The proposed dam is not unviable, and was not determined to be. The dam option was shelved by political process, run by the people who continuously oppose everything including the things they previously espoused, not by science or consideration of viability

  5. Good. It is conventional wisdom in water resource management that using groundwater is a last resort – when you have run out of surface water. Which, clearly, we have not. I ask Eoin to include, as part of his “revisiting” this, investigation of the carbon footprints, over 100 years, of the various options under consideration.

  6. We certainly don’t need any Green Left nonsense in Ballina. They have infiltrated & ruined many city councils already. The job of local councils is clear. Climate activism is not part of it. When did dams become evil?? Dams are a necessity in a dry continent.


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