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January 23, 2022

Byron Council’s new power structure and what it means for you

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As counting continues in the local council elections, a clearer picture is beginning to emerge of who will hold power in Byron and how this will affect the good folk of the Shire.

With preferences yet to be distributed in either the Mayoral or councillor races, any prediction about the final make up of the Council is speculative.

But The Echo’s boffins have been crunching the numbers and we are ready to engage in some courageous conjecture (ok there are no boffins, it’s just me wearing novelty nerd glasses and a Star Trek t-shirt).

With a lead of nearly five per cent at the time of writing, it appears that Independent Michael Lyon is likely to be elected Mayor, continuing the role he was filling on an interim basis prior to the election.

Cr Michael Lyon. Photo supplied

Increasing the likelihood of this outcome is the fact that Lyon seems likely receive a significant number of second preference votes thanks to the alliance he forged with Labor and two other Independent candidates prior to the election – a group known as the United Front.

While Lyon’s closest rival in the mayoral race, Mark Swivel (Independent), will also receive some second preference votes as part of the same arrangement, it is unlikely to be enough to get him over the line given Lyon’s lead.

Does the Mayor matter?

Even though the Mayor only has one vote during the normal course of events, the position is crucial.

For a start, they have significant power to make decisions on their own under delegated authority when an urgent decision is required. This power has been used on multiple occasions in the past two years owing to the chaos of COVID.

The Mayor also has the casting vote in situations where a Council vote is deadlocked, a power that Cr Lyon used on multiple occasions as interim Mayor.

But perhaps even more important in the context of this election is the fact that, should Cr Lyon be elected Mayor, there will be flow-on effects for those further down his Byron Independents ticket.

Put very simply, it is likely to mean that at least two of Cr Lyon’s running mates – Sama Balson and Peter Westheimer – will also get seats on the Council.

That would create a block of three council votes.

Obviously this will not constitute a majority on a nine-member council (I know, 12 years of maths tutoring is finally paying off Mum, thanks for that).

However, it is likely to create a majority for the United Front, assuming that their alliance was more than just a front for political expediency.

Mark Swivel

Extrapolating dangerously from the current numbers it looks like that alliance may have a majority on the Council, broken down as follows:

Byron Independents (led by Michael Lyon): 3 seats

Mark Swivel Team (led by Mark Swivel): 1 or 2 seats

Labor (led by Asren Pugh): 1  seat.

Total votes: 5 or 6

The remaining council spots look likely to be taken by The Greens (2 seats) and independent Cate Coorey (one seat).

Conservative Alan Hunter is still in with a chance of getting a seat.

So what does all of this mean for you? Let’s talk brass tacks.

Paid parking

Should parking meters be installed in Brunswick Heads? Image: Newcastle Herald.

It appears that there will be majority support on the new Council for an extension of paid parking into Brunswick Heads and possibly into Mullumbimby and Bangalow.

Cr Lyon has unashamedly supported this policy, with the proviso that locals will be partially or fully exempted via a permit system.

The Greens are also reportedly in favour of this move, as is Cr Coorey, meaning that it is likely to happen within the next term regardless of whether Mark Swivel and Labor’s Asren Pugh support it.


The United Front alliance have promised to introduce ‘practical strategies to deliver homes for essential workers, the vulnerable and younger people’.

Whether this can actually be done remains to be seen.

So far, virtually all of the Council’s attempts at affordable housing projects have been squashed, usually by mallet-wielding officials from the NSW Planning Department.

But with Cr Lyon at the helm and Ms Balson from the Women’s Village Collective also likely to get a seat, we can expect the Council to keep trying.

Roads and pot holes

Massive, spontaneous potholes like this one are a common occurrence in Byron Bay’s Sunrise. Some residents claim they are sinkholes. Photo supplied

The United Front appears set to continue the approach of their predecessors of attempting to secure State Government funding for major road infrastructure projects.

‘We see strengthening our good relationship with state government as key to delivering the funding and policy reform we need to make progress in coming years,’ the group said.


Plan for a controversial development application at Ocean Shores. Image Byron Shire Council

With both Cr Lyon and incoming councillor Mark Swivel expressing the view that challenging developers in the Land &Environment Court is a fairly fruitless business, it seems unlikely that the new Council will be fighting hard against overdevelopment.

It is more likely that they will continue the previous council’s policy of seeking to negotiate things like size reductions and greater bush regeneration, rather than rejecting them completely and potentially facing legal challenge.


Photo David Lisle

When it comes to environmental issues, the United Front has promised to ‘protect our beaches and prepare for climate change’.

It has also pledged to deliver on the bio-energy plant and solar farm projects and a carbon neutral council, following in the footsteps of the previous Council.

Rail line vs Rail trail

Casino to Murwillumbah rail line, Booyong Bridge. Photo Northern Rivers Rail Trail

The previous council’s preoccupation with getting trains back on the tracks in Byron looks set to continue, with Lyon, The Greens, and Ms Coorey all explicitly stating their support for this policy (albeit to differing degrees).

A short term

Whoever the elected councillors turn out to be and whatever they plan to do, they’d better get on with it.

This Council term is only two-and-a half years long, far less than the marathon term of more than four years the previous councillors endured when COVID forced the elections to be twice postponed.

A note on informality

A surprisingly high 8.3 per cent of voters voted ‘informally’ – ie accidentally or deliberately buggered up their ballot paper – so it didn’t count in the councillor elections for Byron.

Brunswick Heads produced the largest informal vote (12.8 per cent of all votes cast), along with Ocean Shores (11.4 per cent) whereas those voting in Byron Bay High and Byron Bay Public only recorded informal votes of 7.3 per cent and 7.2 per cent respectively.

If ‘Informal’ was a political group it would have come sixth in the election, ahead of Independent Bruce Clarke, Alan Hunter and John Anderson.

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  1. This article is ludicrous. The main point to be written is just who is not in power.
    Just who has been smashed beyond recognition? The Greens.
    The Greens are not in power, They have been knocked out. Anyone who is NOT green does not believe in green values for the environment.
    They do not beliee in green trees and green grass and green buffers zones and green leaves They do not believe in natural things.
    Just like they did not believe in the wetlands and frogs when building the Byron bypass. Just fill the wetlands in with dirt and tarred road.
    Just build over it.
    That is a simple fact. Anyone who is not green believes in concret, tar, asphalt, mortar and the built environment of brick and tile.
    If they did not they would belong to the Greens. Is that not so?
    The polluted air is coming to Byron Bay as big money must be made and enticed to come and change the place that we all love as it is.
    We need more cars. Put up a parking lot.

    • Being green and being a Green are not synonymous, Emily – in either direction. I’m amazed that people seem to forget/overlook that every single one of the Greens voted for the location of this bypass. The Labor councillors plus Cate Coorey were the only ones to vote for the investigation of an alternative route.

      There are many with strong environmental values who differ from the Greens in their views of political reality and the optimal means of achieving their ends.

    • The Greens don’t have a franchise on nature,how dare they even think so.The Greens who go into politics nowadays are self serving careerists and so far removed from actual nature,they have been seen through by the populace.This will happen at all levels of politics,what once was a noble party has blended into well deserved political obscurity,watch the doors don’t hit your arse on the way out.

  2. Hopefully, a sensible outcome from the election.
    It’s no use holding back the tide of population growth. If we are going to do that, then get the wall building started now.
    What need need is to work with the community to look at the next 100 years and build the Shire we want, not what we have got in the last 30 years.
    I know politicians can only see the horizon to the next election, but we all must get involved to push for green energy, low cost housing, artisan locales, reign in over tourism to a sustainable level and EV transport funded by a bed tax.
    Plant a seed and watch it grow.

  3. The people most responsible for ruining the Greens have either gone ie ex Mayor or just elected as the new mayor! Go figure

    • The Greens , spectacularly , managed to ‘ruin’ themselves . The power brokers who enabled the preselection process are totally to blame for this election disaster .

      The Greens had 3 standing Councillors and only one got selected , and she ended up in the unelectable bottom position. Party policy automatically raised her to the number 2 position .Not the boys of the dark Greens

      Then we had the campaign .

      What a disaster .

      A hidden mayoral candidate , Where’s Duncan who , in a rare appearance , had a very interesting radio interview . Another disaster !

      Go figure !

      • Contrary to popular mythology, there are no Light Greens. Although any party will have a certain range of approaches there has to be a set of core values that mark out the party as standing for something. Don’t jump on the “Green” bandwagon if you don’t like this core.

        The “dark” Greens, as you call them are not the old codgers nor a boys’ club. I’d suggest they are merely those who want to see the accurate representation of green values.

        There are plenty of women in the local Greens who contributed to the preselection voting. It’s easy to look over the entrails and make pronouncements about people’s voting motivations. But maybe the old adage “disunity is death in politics” played some role in the outcome.

        • That sounds more like self delusional statement , to me, in order to justify why the Dark Green Greens got flogged in the Elections

          It was the candidates that the Dark Greens put up as their offering to Byron after the coup .It was also about who the Dark Greens did NOT put forward ,

          Byron rejected the offering

          As for shades of ” Greens ” , next , you will tell me that the Watermelon Greens don’r exist either ?

          • I am not a Green voter (not first preference anyway) nor delusional. One of the things that has distinguished the Green philosophy is a certain purism rather than pragmatism so I would suggest someone is largely either a Green or not.

            You might be right about the approaches and policies voters preferred but at some point candidates need to come clean about their priorities – environment versus the profit ethic.

            As for watermelon greens, that’s rather a red herring. If by pink, or red you’re referring to an emphasis on equity and social justice I’d suggest that is not inconsistent the Green philosophy nor the environmental movement. Environmentalism hold that a healthy environment is in the long-term interests of all not something to be exploited for the short-term gain of the rich and powerful.

    • I think you’ll find those responsible for the Greens annihilation is the Greens. Stop this, stop that, sue him, and sue her. Wasteful spending, wasteful ideas.

      Baseline is this, your comment is more than wrong, it’s idiotic. People quit the Greens for a reason, it’s the same reason local membership is down over 50%.

      • I don’t think the Greens on the outgoing Council were into stopping anything much and seemed to bow to many outcomes for fear of Council being sued.

        There seems to be two quite distinct lines of thought here: the Greens didn’t do well because the outgoing Greens weren’t green enough and the Greens didn’t do well because the new candidates were too green.

        I suspect there are many factors at play when people vote.

  4. I have a very different impression of local council greens to the federal greens. I wonder if they talk much… Then again the past decade or so in Byron reminds me of the green party in Canada being taken over by conservatives banking on the passive green voters. Though here is probably just entitled dare-i-say-it nimbyism.

  5. Re the train/trail debate. Richardson could not deliver a train and trail. It was a hollow promise. Lyon has given it 12 months I think he said. I think he knows it wont happen. The Greens got smashed and will surely realise there wont be a track next to a rotting rail line – and there are no votes in it anymore. In Murwillumbah and Casino a trail is being built on the formation and funding will take the trail from Casino to Lismore. A train isnt going to happen. Its nearly 18 years since it went. Support a rail trail and support a Wildlife corridor next to it. Other Greens groups in Oz not only supported a rail trail, they initiated them. And I vote Green.


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