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.
‘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.