After 13 years on Tweed Shire Council, with five years as Mayor, Katie Milne has decided that she will not run in the upcoming council elections on 4 December.
During the Council’s final meeting for this term of council current councillors and staff recognised the important role Cr Milne has played during her time in office. In particular her integrity, persistence and tenacity were highlighted by Tweed Council’s General Manager Troy Green.
Current Mayor Chris Cherry (Independent) spoke to the value of the campaign around the Chinderah Marina that brought her into council and Cr Milne’s ability to ‘unite all sides of politics and convince people about the need to protect that amazing area. It has remained protected to today’.
The challenges of her first years as a Greens councillor were also recognised with Mayor Cherry commenting that ‘it hasn’t always been very easy, particularly the beginning of your term, I think as a Greens councillor on this council it was probably very difficult. As our community has changed, people have learned to really respect what you stand for what you’re trying to protect and how much look after this environment for our community.’
Mr Green echoed this sentiment recognising that it is not every councillor who starts out as the ‘difficult person’ that ends up ‘as mayor’.
‘This speaks to your character,’ he said.
A Councillors life
Talking to The Echo about her time on council Cr Milne reflected that ‘Having the responsibility of trying to look after such a magnificent and special place for the last 13 years has at times has been both terrible and wonderful.’
‘Many dreadful things have happened, especially in the early years when we had a majority pro-development Council rubber stamping everything. Thankfully the community has been valuing, and voting for this internationally significant environment a bit more lately,’ she said.
‘We seem to be finally waking up to what we are doing to our poor planet and our children’s future with climate change now well and truly already upon us, as we experienced with Cyclone Debbie and the recent Black Summer bushfires.’
The impact of short term holiday letting and land banking were the two issues that she sees as negatively impacting on the cost of housing and inappropriate development in the area.
‘One of the toughest challenges for Australia and our community that threatens the Tweed is the housing crisis. It is absolutely appalling that people are suffering so badly and being made homeless. People are so desperate there are calls to allow more housing in our rural areas, even by some environmentalists,’ she said.
Impact on the environment
‘More housing in rural areas means more schools, more roads, more shops, more land clearing, more cats and dogs, more septic systems leaching into our waterways, and more urban sprawl. But no more money for Council to service these needs as rates can only be charged per property not per number of dwellings on a property.
‘Council staff advised that all other rate payers will have to subsidise these second dwellings to the tune of a 10 per cent rate increase when ultimately developed or accept reduced levels of service.’
Cr Milne pointed out that there are significant areas that are already zoned for residential development that are being held onto for future profit by developers.
‘The really crazy and very tragic thing is that Tweed already has enough residential land zoned up to cater to population growth for the next thirty years,’ she pointed out.
‘Even in this devastating housing crisis the NSW government continues to allow the developers that own these residential areas to land bank, tying up areas that were identified for development way back in the 1980’s. This results in enormous pressure to approve other more inappropriate areas for development.
‘To make matters worse the State also just allowed holiday letting in any dwelling for 365 days of the year. Investors reaping big bucks on cashed up holiday makers have no incentive to rent to locals anymore. Ten per cent of Tweed houses are already vacant and these new laws will make it much worse.
‘Add to that the huge under investment in social housing and there is your recipe for a bonanza for developers and a housing emergency for communities.
‘This has been one of the saddest and most frustrating issues of the last several years. It’s a failed State when people cannot get a home. People naturally look to Council for quick fix solutions (and blame) but there is a bigger picture.
‘Tweed already has the highest number of threatened species in Australia. Doubling our rural population will certainly make it worse. There is another way. It’s called the NSW Department of Housing. The State could sort this out if they wanted to,’ she said.
As her council colleges recognized the protection and recognition of the environment has always been the backbone of Cr Milne’s policy direction.
‘Your legacy is to have, in just about every council document that I know, is recognising that we have a World Heritage environment,’ said Mayor Cherry.
‘I think it’s very hard to read a council document without hearing that and I think that is very much you’re doing [recognising that we are] the third highest biodiversity in Australia. And so your legacy is just the incredible climate change adaptation that we’ve got in place and so many more things in terms of the community impacts. Looking after community amenity always taking the side of seeing what better outcome you could get.’