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Byron Shire
December 3, 2021

Former Nationals member echoes calls for Dunoon Dam in Ballina mayoral campaign

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Ballina Shire Cr Stephen McCarthy PIC SUPPLIED

Support for the idea of new dam in Byron’s hinterland has again emerged as part of a Ballina mayoral campaign.

Independent Ballina Shire Councillor Stephen McCarthy echoed concerns expressed by fellow independent councillors and mayoral candidates Sharon Cadwallader and Eoin Johnston over water security plans on the Northern Rivers when he spoke of his mayoral campaign to The Echo this week.

‘I think that that should never have went off the table,’ the former Nationals Party member said, referring to the dumped idea of a Dunoon Dam, ‘because due process wasn’t followed’.

The independent candidate said he felt there was ‘a bit of misinformation out there’ about the dam proposal and it was ‘embarrassing’ having Ballina’s two representatives on the Rous County Council divided over the matter.

Mayoral candidate wants dam option ‘back on table’

Crs Cadwallader and Keith Williams represented the Ballina Shire Council on Rous, which was in charge of water security for much of the Northern Rivers including most town water in Ballina, Byron, Richmond Valley and Lismore local government areas.

Rous released a revised list of water security options to investigate earlier this year and controversially excluded the dam from the list.

Cr Cadwallader said at the time it showed democracy was dead in the county council while Cr Williams, also Rous County Council Chair, has repeatedly described the dam as inefficient and overly expensive compared to a multi-pronged approach to water security based on recycling, conservation, groundwater extraction and desalination.

The Widgabul Wia-bul Traditional custodians of the land in question released statements against the dam idea owing to the presence indigenous heritage.

‘Those statements are great in acknowledging where we’re up to,’ Cr McCarthy said, ‘but I still believe that the dam has a right to stay on the table until due process follows’.

A ‘mayor for the people’

As the independent councillor neared the end of his first term, one prolonged owing to public health orders in response to COVID 19, he told The Echo he wanted to be a ‘mayor for the people’.

Outgoing Mayor David Wright had served the council for 34 years and was known for his unashamed willingness to change his mind on significant matters at the last minute when voting.

But Cr McCarthy said it was important to have a mayor who ‘doesn’t flip flop’.

‘Somebody that just knows what they want, has a vision,’ he said.

When asked to describe his vision for the Ballina Shire, Cr McCarthy said ‘mainly a lot of things that are already there’.

‘I enjoy engaging with people, listening, seeking out facts,’ he said.

Reviving the ’60’s surf culture of Lennox

The independent candidate had been a member of the Nationals up until the first of November, he said, but didn’t think party politics belonged in local government and said he had no plans of resuming party membership.

When pressed to list three key concerns for the Ballina Shire, Cr McCarthy spoke passionately of his desire to ‘bring the heart back to Lennox Head’.

The former basketball coach said he wanted to start by identifying the local surfing culture ‘from way back from the sixties’.

But he also said a lot of people wanted the old Lennox Head surfing shed to stay at the park instead of being moved and that others were interested in a return of markets back to the Lake Ainsworth.

‘Maybe not a Sunday market, maybe a twilight market,’ the councillor said, before going on to mention parking on Lennox Head as another issue he’d like resolved.

4-WD damage to beaches ‘heresay’ says mayoral candidate

Traffic congestion in general was one of Cr McCarthy’s top priorities, particularly access to Ballina from the Western side of the Pacific Highway.

Drivers could only enter via single lanes on Tamarind Drive or River Street and Cr McCarthy said he’d like a dead-end dirt road heading north from River Street to be upgraded and extended to Tamarind Drive to prevent unnecessary traffic further east in the shire.

He said if he became mayor he would also lobby the state government to fast-track plans for a Western Arterial bypass alongside River Street to alleviate the need for drivers to cross the creek onto Ballina Island.

Four-wheel drives on beaches was an issue regularly debated in the Ballina Shire Council but Cr McCarthy said he wanted more specific data on the numbers of vehicles using beaches and their environmental impacts, perhaps via a driver app with GPS tracking.

‘Currently, it’s just hearsay,’ Cr McCarthy said, ‘that’s not actual proof that the beach has been damaged by speeding for drivers, you know, there’s no actual real data’.

More information about Cr McCarthy’s values and mayoral campaign could be found via his website.

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  1. This bloke and Cadwallader arent focused on water security, they are focused on a short term political ‘trophy’ win for the Council elections, against the best advice received and considered by ROUS, and as a divergent position from the identified best water infrastructure, and as a finger up at the environment and Aboriginal cultural heritage impacts of an expensive and potentially ineffective dam on the same narrow Rocky Creek Dam catchment

    • Good on you John. Well said. The grand plan is for the pro-dam mob too control council lead by Sharon Cadwallader, dump Cr. Keith Williams as a delegate to Rous County Council and then engage in pro-dam, pro-development rhetoric. Typical of the many Nationals ex or otherwise standing for election to the Ballina Shire council. Only way to stop them is to ignore the Independent bull shit they come out with and vote Labor.


  2. Well said Lazarus, they are just beating it up. They oppose all other solutions to the water issue and cry lack of democracy when only their solution isn’t accepted. That is democracy people. Anyway ex NAT, give us a break.

  3. OMG Cadwallader is a nightmare, a dinosaur from a bye gone era & her National Party politics drive her absurd attitude & comments. Everyone concerned about what would be lost if this dumb Dunoon Dam proposal went ahead is certainly more concerned for the ecology than Cadwallader. Many endangered & threatened species on the dam site would be drowned , so much for caring about our Koalas EVEN ? Lets not forget that local First Nations people have said over & over again they do NOT want this dam to go ahead. Will our European society EVER actually listen to what indigenous people are saying? THANK HEAVENS THAT Cr WILLIAMS IS STANDING STRONG AND CONTINUING TO OPPOSE THIS DUMB DAM IDEA. This would be Ecocide and Hell knows we’ve had enough of that. IT IS OBVIOUS THAT AFTER 250 + YRS OF WHITE SETTLEMENT WE HAVE LEARNT LITTLE ABOUT PROTECTING & RESPECTING THE REMNANTS OF WHAT WE HAVE WILLINGLY DESTROYED .

  4. It’s a real worry when you have someone who wants to be mayor , who doesn’t want to change his mind, “just knows what they want, has a vision”.
    When people cling to an old vision, refusing to accept the arrival of new evidence or a changed situation, they are not fit to lead a dynamic community, or major problems will arise.
    A majority of Rous councillors accepted the evidence that the proposed 2nd dam on Rocky Creek would NOT meet the criteria of the triple bottom line [ economic/environmental/social ] that planning requires. It was an old vision, that needed changing, so it was.
    It is a lie to suggest due process wasn’t followed. Due process was followed throughout. Dam proponents, with a mix of stubborness and opportunism, then convinced the Water Minister to get the CSIRO to review the water security aspects of the dam. That review is unlikely to alter any scientiffic facts.
    Clearly McCarthy is more a man of the past than the future, and not a suitable mayor.

  5. Nor does McCarthy understand the meaning of “hearsay”. He is being wilfully blind to the decades of published research demonstrating the impacts of vehicles on beaches….. It’s not unsubstantiated rumours, it’s been proven dozens of times by every independent study. There is no need for more studies whilst supporting the status quo and deferring any semblance of management action – a typical delay straight from the LNP playbook.
    Why on earth would Ballina’s beaches not be suffering the same vehicle impacts as all the other east coast beaches studied?


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