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Byron Shire
December 1, 2021

Leigh Thomas says political affiliations not relevant to Council decision making

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Ballina Shire Council defs not a ‘boys’ club’, says outgoing female councillor

This person is claiming that the council is a 'boys'' club and that the out-going mayor is one of them.

Leigh Thomas Tweed Shire Council candidate. Photo supplied

Leigh Thomas is the lead candidate for Group M running in the upcoming Tweed Shire Council elections. Mr Thomas is a member of the National Party, however he says ‘as far as I am concerned political parties should just stick t

The rest of the ticket is made up of Marianne Melnikas, Joshua Szabados a One Nation member, Rodger Scott, and John Thomas who has no political affiliations.

Candidate Questions

If you are not an incumbent (a member of the previous council) what specifically would you propose to change? 

Such an open question, until elected to Council and I (sic) see what is happening it would be inappropriate to say I would change this or that.

What are the key opportunities you would pursue as a councillor?

Ensuring our environment is well cared for, making sure our residents receive the very best services from Council whether it is garbage collection to road words.

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?

Sadly, we must adhere to legislative requirements that are currently in place. It is not ideal, I would be looking at encouraging other LGA’s to join Tweed Shire Council in making representations to the Minister for Planning & Environment to make changes that will protect current stocks of rental housing as well as protecting those tenants.

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?

From what I have read thus far it is 365 days outside of Greater Sydney. Councils outside Greater Sydney will have the power to decrease the 365 days limit to no less than 180 days per year. I would most definitely be pushing for the limit within the Tweed Shire to be 180 days per year.

How do you intend to impact homelessness in the Tweed?

Due to STHL, this is becoming an ever increasing fact of life. Housing is needed, it is not within Council budgets to start building accommodation for the homeless. It is within our reach to make representations to the Department of Housing for funding to build appropriate housing on existing Council land.

The one thing we must not do is put pressure on our residents to pay more in their rates to fund projects of this nature. We must be honest; the funding must come from somewhere and it would end up being our ratepayers and residents.

Water

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

No. I will only support the water extraction that is currently approved by Council.

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? 

A multi-pronged question. As I have previously stated the only water extraction that I would support are those currently approved, no increases in volumes, no elimination.

Why?

It is not the place of a Council to remove the livelihood of any resident which is what eliminating water extraction would do. It would also put the Council at risk of litigation by the business owner for the loss of income both current and future.

Development

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

I support the height limit of 13.6 metres within three kilometres of the coast, beyond this I would support building heights up to 33 metres. If we wish to retain farming land, protect our environment we need to address housing shortages.

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 support the building of the new Tweed Valley Hospital; the current hospital is a sad and sorry place needing replacement. The remaining farmland is still protected as Cudgen Plateau State Significant Farmland. Ultimately, it all comes down to whether or not the farmers sell off their lands. Should the buyer intend to develop the site, I would not put the protections currently in place at risk.

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

You are asking the same questions only worded differently. For the Tweed Shire to remain solvent, able to provide for our residents and businesses well into the future of course growth is needed. Having said that, it is a delicate balancing act carried out by capable employees of the Council dealing with permits right through to the CEO in putting together Master Plans that will lead our Shire into the future.

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?

I would be guided by those who are at the coal face on a day-to-day basis, also by the Council Master Plan. My own personal beliefs can be in conflict with these, it would be very wrong of me if I put those ahead of the Council Master Plan and recommendations by Council staff.

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? 

Council has a voice on the CAGC, I would push for more noise monitors. I would also ask for a series of meetings with residents and have a Council report prepared and sent to the Aircraft Noise Ombudsman. This official role can make recommendations for Air Services to put in place.

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

No. All policies must be strictly enforced.

Would you prioritise community and environment or development?

I would not prioritise one above the other, they are equally important. If we take a look at developments in countries like Singapore, buildings are part of the environment. This is the type of development I would support, as it provides for the community and environment.

Environment

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

Yes.

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

Yes.

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

Yes. Increased funding would need to come from a source other than Council.

Do you support allowing forestry in private native forests?

Yes, with tight limits. The land and trees are not Council assets; however, permits would be required to fell trees.

Rail

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

I support a Rail Trail; Labor closed the line 16th May 2004.

Why?

The costs of building new bridges to replace the original ones removed, upgrading rail lines and Stations would make the reinstatement not cost effective in the long term.

The Rail Trail will attract visitors and locals to traverse the route and enjoy our environment.

Political party affiliation

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

NSW National Party eight years.

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

Not at all. As far as I am concerned political parties should just stick to State and Federal politics and leave local government to local people.

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

No. The commitment being made is to act on behalf of the residents and businesses in the Tweed Shire.


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