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December 2, 2021

Tweed Council Greens ticket is seeking to build on the current strengths

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Dr Nola Firth is heading The Greens ticket for the Tweed Shire Council elections. She is an academic, member of the Caldera Environment Centre, and founder of Hospital Hill Landcare Murwillumbah.

Dr Nola Firth has taken the helm of The Greens ticket for the Tweed Shire Council elections on 4 December as Greens councillor and Mayor Katie Milne Dr Nola Firth leads The Greens ticket for the Tweed Shire Council elections as Greens councillor and Mayor Katie Milne is not seeking re-election.

Dr Firth has responded to the questions on behalf of The Greens ticket. She is an  academic, member Caldera Environment Centre, and founder of Hospital Hill Landcare Murwillumbah. Her running team is made up of Julianne Sanderson who is a secondary school teacher with a Masters in Environmental Advocacy; Patricia Mann an environmental activist, and long term Greens member and local business owner Joanna Gardner who is also a is a teacher and member TSC Coast and Waterways Committee.

Candidate Questions

If not an incumbent (on the previous council) what specifically would you propose to change?

I am passionate about building on and strengthening the substantial climate change action and environmental protection of our internationally significant environment that has been established under my predecessor, the wonderful Cr Katie Milne.

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

  • I would fast track our Tweed Shire Council Climate Action Plan. In the vacuum of federal policy on this extremely urgent issue local government has been leading the way. Due to the work of Cr Katie Milne and other progressives, we are in a position to be leaders on this and to transform the challenges of climate change into economic, social and environmental benefit for all. This will mean creating many more jobs by supporting new and expanding industries such as greening urban areas; restoring rural lands, bushland and waterways; regenerative farming, retrofitting buildings, and supporting renewable energy, recycling industries and more sustainable infrastructure. Business as usual or change at a snail’s pace as is just not an option if we want a liveable planet for our children.
  • We in the Tweed Shire live in an environment of international significance and beauty. We are the third most biodiverse region in Australia but we also have the most threatened species in Australia. In this time of climate change and mass species extinction I want to ensure that restoration and maintenance of our environment has higher priority and resourcing. I will also urgently advocate for restoration of Council control over private native forestry and for protection of our precious wildlife, including our koalas, over our entire shire – not just protection of koalas on the coast as is currently the case. And I will be working for development that truly adheres to the ecologically sustainable principles that are actually already in government planning controls but are often only given lip service.
  • Food security in the form of regeneration and protection of our State and Regional Significant Farmland is also critical. Local farms are increasingly important for our shire and the nation for food security and as a sustainable economic driver and job creator. Our Shire is incredibly important as an area that has one of the highest and most reliable rainfalls in NSW. Regenerative farming is growing in our region and there is an increasing variety of food production including on smaller properties using share farming and hydroponic farming. The protection of the integrity of rural land is integral to the TSC Rural Land Strategy and I strongly support this.
  • I will be opposing the Chinderah greyhound track. 15,000 greyhounds are killed in Australia each year because they don’t run fast enough (according to the RSCPA) and these poor dogs are allowed to be kept for 23 out of 24 hours in metal cages. This is not something I believe our caring community would be supporting.

Trish Mann is running on The Greens ticket for the Tweed Shire Council.

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?

The cost of housing is already at crisis point such that many people who work here can no longer find a place to live. During a housing and rental crisis, government incentives for homes to be used for holiday rental need to be opposed. I therefore support STRA only in limited areas and at a lower day cap. There also needs to be a registration system with the registration money being paid to Council so they properly carry out compliance – or preferably hand compliance over to the State Government to manage as they have created the problems.

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?

Houses should primarily be for people’s homes. The increase of short term accommodation to 365 days for any and all dwellings (as of November this year) will impact on availability and price of houses and long term rental accommodation.

How do you intend to impact homelessness in the Tweed?

The forthcoming TSC Growth Management Strategy needs to emphasise social and affordable housing options and further investigation of The Wardrop Valley Village plan for sustainable, affordable houses. This plan has been referred to the State Government with a request for funding for a full business case analysis.

I will urge TSC to collaborate more fully with non-profit groups such as The Women’s Village Collective (WVC). WVC want TSC to allocate tent or mobile home sites for emergency accommodation at Council-owned caravan parks and use of ‘meanwhile’ land (land zoned for future use) for temporary accommodation in tiny houses under supervision of WVC.

Negative gearing and other incentives to use housing as an investment, needs to be wound back so housing is primarily for people’s homes. There also needs to be massive investment by the state in social housing as indeed there was under the Housing Commission in the 1970s. The Greens are calling for a million houses across the nation. Council needs to continue to strongly advocate to the Premier, Prime Minister and relevant departments and put the hard word on them for solutions. Council also needs to lobby the State Government to have developers release the substantial amount of land that is already zoned residential.

Water

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

I do not support commercial extraction of groundwater for profiteering purposes. Water is a precious community and environmental resource. Thousands of residents of Tweed Shire have been very vocal in their opposition to the unquantified impacts on local creeks, farming operations, and groundwater dependent ecosystems; the hundreds of water trucks on their small rural roads and through their villages and the use of thousands of single use plastic bottles.

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? Why?  

Fortunately Council banned new commercial water extraction applications that Barry Longland and the other conservative Councillors made allowable in the 2012 term of Council. In that rezoning the State Government did mandate that applications for expanded water extraction operations of existing approvals be allowed, but Council is now far more rigorous in their assessment of these impacts and no approvals have been granted since.  I would pursue any legal opportunity to remove the remaining approvals and disallow increased water extraction.

Local business owner Joanna Gardner is running on The Greens ticket for the Tweed Shire Council

Development

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

I will work for preservation of the height limits to maintain the human scale and character of the Tweed as a quieter, more rural, less urbanised place – Tweed coast, not Gold Coast.

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?

The remaining State Significant and Regional Significant Farmland must be protected and used for farming. Local farms are increasingly important for our shire and the nation in terms of food security and as a sustainable economic driver and job creator. Our Shire is incredibly important as an area that has one of the highest and most reliable rainfalls in NSW so we need to support and promote our shire as a clean, green food bowl. Regenerative farming is growing in our region and there is an increasing variety of food production including on smaller properties using share farming and hydroponic farming. The protection of the integrity of rural land is integral to the TSC Rural Land Strategy and I strongly support this.

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

‘Development’ means growing in a positive way. We will grow. The issue is how we do it. We can no longer afford to give less than highest priority to addressing climate change, mass species extinction and food security. That means not building in areas zoned as conservation or rural and allocating sufficient resources to maintain and restore biodiversity in our astonishing and internationally significant environment.

On the land already assigned for thousands of homes in Kings Forest and Cobaki, good development would mean requirements such as sustainable buildings and water management solar power, and people friendly places. Extensive urban greening will make happier, healthier people and a welcoming of native wildlife. Our urban centres can become biophillic places where nature is everywhere, as many progressive places such as Singapore have shown – a big change from concrete strips and car dominated areas. Such cities are on the increase and are cooler, happier and economically thriving due to their sustainable reputation and desirable lifestyle. We will develop, but we can choose to do so in a way that does not compromise our longer term happiness and the beauty and integrity of our shire or put immediate economic profit over community welfare.

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?

Population growth needs to be managed very carefully as ad hoc development adds to the costs of infrastructure and impacts enormously on communities. Containing growth to the identified urban growth areas, particularly north of the River, where the major road networks and water and sewerage capacity already exists will contain the costs to ratepayers and ensure these areas can be properly serviced.

Investment in low emissions public transport will reduce traffic congestion and lower emissions. I support a train from Coolangatta to Tweed Heads and more frequent and connected electric buses connecting the shire. There also needs to be a focus on safe bicycle lanes and well maintained foot paths, especially in the hinterland and connecting the hinterland and the coast.

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?  

The Tweed community suffers the majority of departures over our Shire which is completely inappropriate when our community makes far less trips than Gold Coast residents and I would certainly advocate to try to change that. The changing of flight paths and curfew requirements is another very concerning issue that I would seek to ensure does not occur without the full support of our community. Expansion of the airport for increased international flights seems totally inappropriate for the location of this airport with such residentially affected areas, and the State Significant Coastal Lake system of the Cobaki broadwater has suffered greatly.

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

Environmental protections and climate change resilience controls need to be strictly enforced. Climate change is already upon us and so is mass species extinction. To look after our community well being and our environment, and the two are inextricably linked together, we need to be firm about this.

Would you prioritise community and environment or development?

Development is about growing in a positive way. Sacrificing the environment or the community is not sensible development. We know that connection with the environment is linked to human well being. Also here in the Tweed we have such significant and beautiful environment that people want to come and see it, so our economy is also linked to really looking after our environment. We must not build in areas zoned as conservation and ensure all new housing is built under strict environmental sustainability protocols.

Julianne Sandison is running on The Greens ticket for the Tweed Shire Council

Environment

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

I definitely support the TSC Emergency Declaration and strong action on reducing green house gas emissions. I am proud that TSC, under Katie Milne’s mayorship, adopted the Declaration with a target of zero emissions by 2030. TSC have already made substantial progress in reducing their own emissions, for example by installing solar panels on most buildings. TSC also now have a state of the art organics processing facility and a zero waste target of 2040. If elected I will be strongly advocating for fast tracking the TSC Climate Action Plan.

Do you support stronger policies to protect Tweed’s internationally significant environment? We live in one of the most biodiverse regions in Australia. Fifty two species of plants are only found here and we have the most threatened species in Australia. In the face of mass species extinction I am committed to prioritising restoration and protection of our environment. I will be advocating for increased resources for weed and feral animal control and faster restoration of our rivers and bushland areas. I will also be advocating for increased urban greening. This will cool our towns, increase habitat and build further opportunities for the community to interact with and care for native plants and animals. I will also be insisting on strict ecological sustainability principles for all new developments.

Do you support allowing forestry in private native forests?

I do not support allowing forestry in private native forests. It is way past the time when we should be removing any native forest. We have signed onto the COP26 pledge to cease deforestation. Trees are urgently needed for habitat, carbon storage and weather moderation, including rain production. I am highly concerned that the state government has recently decreased Council control over private native forestry. And since the new Koala SEPP was introduced, in the hinterland of our shire native forest on private land has significantly less protection.

Rail

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

One of the key concerns around whether to keep the rail tracks or make a trail was the lack of effective whole of community consultation. Former Mayor Cr Katie Milne was able to insert in the call for tenders an option for a rail-trail beside the tracks. Ultimately the majority of Council voted against (2-5) the successful tenderer’s request for an extra four weeks to explore that option, despite the fact that many in the community wanted to keep the tracks, as the petition and business survey clearly showed. If there’s a legally feasible way to reverse the decision and have the best of both worlds i.e. the trail alongside the tracks, then I would definitely consider it.

Political party affiliation

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

I have been a membership of the Greens since 2016.

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

My political allegiance is to community first and then the Greens. Thankfully the Greens policies are always aligned with the community so I see no conflict between my commitment to my community and the policies of my party as Cr Milne has demonstrated over many years.

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

I will definitely be staying for the full term if I am honoured to get such an opportunity. I do not have ambitions beyond serving the Tweed community.


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