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December 5, 2021

From ‘struggle street’ to Ballina’s only woman running for mayor: Cr Cadwallader’s Echo Q&A

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Independent Ballina Shire Cr Sharon Cadwallader (front centre) with her mayoral campaign team (L-R): Eva Ramsay; Dr Simon Kinny; Steve Bocking; Nigel Buchanan; Rod Bruem. PIC SUPPLE


Independent Ballina Shire Councillor Sharon Cadwallader is the only woman in the shire running for mayor and arguably one of the most competitive candidates.

Probably best known lately for her persistent campaign to have the option of a new dam in Byron’s hinterland reconsidered, Cr Cadwallader has previously spoken to The Echo of concerns about policing in Alstonville and state infrastructure in the rapidly expanding Lennox Head area.

The independent councillor shares widespread concerns about a declared housing crisis in her shire and earlier this year successfully moved for the council to back calls for a Royal Commission into the matter.

But Cr Cadwallader has repeatedly said it’s up to the state government to take responsibility for housing and doesn’t believe ratepayers should bear the cost of social housing projects and the like.

Fellow Cr Eoin Johnstone told The Echo Cr Cadwallader asked him to join her council campaign ticket but despite sharing many views on some of the shire’s most pressing issues, he wanted a chance at becoming mayor himself.

The Echo has put a series of questions to each mayoral candidate and to follow are Cr Cadwallader’s replies.

What are your intentions and hopes for the December election?

I’m seeking the support of Ballina Shire voters to elect me as Mayor and support my independent team so we can ensure stability and maintain Ballina Shire Council’s reputation as a responsible council that manages its finances well, ensuring core business is taken care of along with getting things done.

What do you see as the biggest challenges for Ballina Shire going forward?

Coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic we will face many new financial challenges as the global economy recovers.

Add to this the constant pressure for sustainable development, ensuring we have the services and infrastructure to meet the needs of the community, while caring for our environment.

As mayor, my aim will be to work cooperatively with state and federal governments to make sure we’re not left behind and that Ballina Shire ratepayers aren’t left to carry costs they shouldn’t have to.

We need to make sure rates, which affect rental costs, aren’t forced up by development and growth pressures as much as possible.

We will need to resist pressure to commit to what I’d call ‘state and egoism projects’ that are proposed from time to time that threaten to destroy Ballina’s record for responsible administration.

Looking back, what do you see as the highlights of your time on council so far?

I’m proud to have been part of a council that has made Ballina so successful that so many people want to move here from other parts of the country.

Projects I advocated for, like the Pacific Highway Dual carriageway; changing Fawcett Park from a parking lot dustbowl into a beautiful playground; along with the facelift of the Ballina CBD, which has made a big difference and will leave a lasting impression for years to come.

What decisions did you get the most flak for?

Without a doubt the most troubling development that has occurred recently has been the very intense and personal debate over the future of our water needs.

This has resulted in threats to me and my family and on police advice I have had to install security measures.

I’m so sorry to see the level of debate sink to this level in Ballina, I know it happens in other local government areas, but we don’t need it here.

We should be able to debate our views in a respectful way.

As mayor, I would like to see Ballina Shire Council work cohesively as a team, demonstrating inclusive leadership and avoid the nasty infighting we have seen at neighbouring councils.

What were the most popular decisions?

Definitely the ones that leave a lasting impression on our environment and improve people’s lives.

Projects like the Shaws Bay foreshore redevelopment and Pop Denison Park, the villages of Alstonville, Lennox Head and Wardell.

The swimming pool upgrades – The Coastal Recreational Pathway and cycleway, sporting fields and playgrounds just to name a few.

What’s been frustrating, and why?

At this time the housing crisis on the North Coast is concerning so many of us.

I’ve been on struggle street in the past with the real worry about keeping a roof over my kid’s heads.

It’s a long time ago now, but those memories and fears are still raw.

My heart goes out to vulnerable people right now.

As mayor, my aim would be to work cooperatively with our regional councils and NSW Government to come up with some new solutions that could be implemented quickly and that don’t force local ratepayers to foot the bill.

What could Ballina Council do better?

The latest survey of ratepayers shows a high level of satisfaction with council however, we can’t afford to sit back and rest on that.

Just like in business, a council is well regarded when it delivers good service and infrastructure and keeps costs down.

Coming out of COVID-19 with the general fund already in deficit, I expect this will be an even bigger challenge.

My experience in small business has taught me it is a process of listening, combined with constant change and improvement without risk adverse decisions.

One of my goals as mayor would be to make sure Ballina Council is the best when it comes to customer service, keeping down the demands on households and small businesspeople as much as possible because I know they feel they are constantly being asked to pay more.

Council could be better facilitators and less regulators.

What are your current thoughts about the regional water security issue?

It’s one of the key issues we face as councillors.  We can’t afford to let Ballina Shire and the region run out of water like it did in the ‘80s.

People shouldn’t be forced to drink recycled sewerage, desalination, or aquifer water as a permanent supply.

There is strong support across the political spectrum for a wide-ranging inquiry into the future of water in the Richmond catchment.  That would look at water security as well as the significant environmental and flood mitigation challenges, we face.

I support this inquiry and looking at all options.

We shouldn’t be knocking off one option before it has been thoroughly investigated to see if it is viable or not, just because one particular lobby group doesn’t like it.

That is the opposite of good, responsible government. All the options need to be carefully considered so we get the best outcome.

Have you got any comments about the decisions of your fellow councillors on the issue, beyond what’s already on the public record?

I would just say that once the studies are done and the environmental and other impacts are properly considered, there is every possibility the Dunoon Dam may not be a viable proposition.

But the process was corrupted when Labor and Greens-aligned councillors simply followed the anti-dam ideology of their respective parties and voted to remove that option at the early stage.

This is the style of politics people in Lismore and Byron are very familiar with and the result is higher rates, ratepayer complaints in the hundreds and roads falling apart.

Thankfully in Ballina we’ve not had this style of politics in the past and I hope we can keep it that way.

I look forward to working with those elected on December 4 to make sure Ballina Council maintains its reputation as a responsible council that works for ratepayers and gets things done.

What are your thoughts about the increasing amount of development pressure on the region?

It’s a big challenge.  We can’t do it alone, we need to work to get the most we can out of the state and federal governments.

This is something Ballina Shire Council has excelled at but there are areas that need improvement and as mayor I will be working my hardest and building on the relationships I have with state and federal MPs.

How do you see local government’s relationship with the business community?

Small business is the key to our regional economic recovery post COVID-19.  Ballina is emerging as the new business capital of the North Coast.  I look forward to developing policies to bring these two opportunities together.

How do you approach dealing with councillors who have different opinions?

My greatest fear would be to see Ballina council become dysfunctional like some other local councils have from time to time.

It’s an honour to serve on Ballina Council.

I have a good working relationship with my fellow councillors, and I look forward to working with those elected on December 4 to make sure Ballina Council maintains its reputation as a responsible council that works for ratepayers, delivering on the things that matter most to them.

How do you feel about Ballina Council’s relationship with its neighbouring shires?

We need to work together to address growth and development pressures and ensure there’s no cost-shifting from state to local government. I’d look to work constructively with neighbouring councils to achieve that.

Are you interested in continuing to represent Ballina on the Rous County Council?

I would certainly be interested as water security, weed control and flood mitigation, which all involve the health of our environment, including climate change, are three of the biggest issues on our plate.  I respect this will be a decision for the incoming council.

Do you have any political ambitions beyond local government?

No.  I’d be honoured to serve as mayor. As I’ve said before, being elected to council was certainly a great honour and after almost two decades of service, with time spent in the role as deputy mayor, it would be the highlight of my community work for the Ballina Shire community.

Why did you originally decide to get involved with local government?

I was supported and encouraged by a former councillor who respected what I was achieving in Ballina as a woman in small business active in the Ballina Business Chamber of Commerce.  He knew I had a broad background of experience, starting out originally as a country girl from Stuarts Point, working my way up. I started working from age twelve to buy the uniforms and books I needed for high school in Kempsey. Later I started my own businesses and after being left as a single mum, battling following an accident where my youngest daughter needed twelve years rehabilitation. He knew I was passionate about community service and thought, given my background, I could achieve something and bring a different perspective to the table.

How do you feel about that decision now?

I’ve enjoyed helping people.  People know they can call me anytime and i will take their call or get back to them.  There is no greater satisfaction. That’s what motivates me to serve and is why I’m running with a team of other like-minded people committed to our community.

Do you have any thoughts about the growing film/TV industry in the region?

We have to create our own opportunities and bounce back after COVID-19 as quickly as we can. Tourism, the emerging film industry and the airport are some of our key assets.  As mayor I will be backing them as hard as I can as well as other key sectors like agriculture and retail.

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

I would like to mention the great team running with me, bringing added experience and diversity to Ballina Shire Council.  Running in B Ward is Eva Ramsey who is recognised as the driving force behind the campaign to build the magnificent Ballina Indoor Sports Complex. Running in A Ward is Rod Bruem, a respected journalist and community broadcaster who led the campaign to clean up the Richmond River. Also in A Ward is Dr Simon Kinny, an orthopaedic surgeon who was an original founding volunteer medical crewman for the North Coast Rescue Helicopter Service in 1983.  In C Ward is Nigel Buchanan, a successful leader of diverse local businesses including the legendary Wardell Pies. Also in C Ward is Steve Bocking who is playing a critical role establishing the world-class movie production facilities at Alstonville, bringing jobs and investment to the Ballina Shire in a sustainable way.

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  1. How’s her polling picture with her and a koala?
    What a joke. Isn’t she the candidate pushing for a dam that will flood koala habitat, drown the waterfall at the back of dunoon, including a regenerating area of rainforest?
    What a fraud. Bet she has never been for a bushwalk in her life.
    What ever you do, don’t vote for this fool. Get rid of her. We need some fresh new faces in council.

  2. Not a real independent, a nat. Anyway policing in alstonville, I live there and this law and order is a beat up, just us oldies having a whinge. Like how credit claimed for many projects put through by council.

  3. It’s quite interesting to hear Cr Sharon Cadwallader’s views on ‘respectful debating’.

    ‘I’m so sorry to see the level of debate sink to this level in Ballina, I know it happens in other local government areas, but we don’t need it here. We should be able to debate our views in a respectful way’.

    Cr Sharon Cadwallader has a TV ad running at the moment were she states ‘Labor and Greens want to plunder the aquifers and force you to drink toilet water’. She has also been responsible for a misleading petition that has only sort to turn a key issue like water security into a political wedge. As one of Ballina Council’s Rous delegates Cr Sharon Cadwallader knows all too well what she is doing, which is trying to win an election by dividing our community. There’s nothing respectful about that style of campaigning.

  4. The Dunoon Dam taken off the table to early? Twenty five years of environmental and cultural studies are extensive enough? Hmmm almost seems like there’s an ulterior motive behind Cadwallader’s determination to progress the dam despite all the expert evidence that has removed it as a viable option….

    • The “expert evidence” pointed to the dam as being a viable option. Probably the best option, then for some unknown reason it was removed for the list of options. I suspect foul play form the closet watermelon Greens on the Rous CC

  5. The Dunoon dam was originally identified as the preferred option ,then thanks to Labour and the greens it was removed that’s why where in the shambles where in.Good on her for standing up for what she believes

  6. Cadwallader spruiks “toilet to tap” to frighten the populace, but toilet to tap is exactly where we need to go. The “tap” for your drinking water in your home would be the last “tap” to receive it (but note the UK drinking water supply is such recycled water), whereas like Byron Council, all Councils should be supplying lower than drinking quality recycled water for public toilets and watering gardens and parks. Recycling lower grade water means more security for high quallity ROUS supplied water to drink. Cadwallader’s emotive “toilet to tap” is an attempt to sabotage the regions water security. IF she gets reelected this sabotour must not be reelected by Ballina Council to the ROUS board ( and Phil Mako, Byron Councils reps on ROUS ARE BOTH INDEPENDENTS, and real independents unlike the fake independent Cadwallader).

    • Sharon Cadwallader is the only woman running for Ballina Shire Mayor and Cate Coorey is the only woman running for Byron Shire Mayor.

  7. Ask her where all the funding for BACCI went. She came to meetings and watched us raise thousands of dollars with donations from local businesses, buy a brick campaign as well as funding we secured from State government toward building an art and craft centre all the time misleading us, only to take the funds for the dreary old council chambers. I will never trust her.


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