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Byron Shire
January 23, 2022

True non-partisan leadership of Ballina Shire Council over

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

A reign of non-partisan leadership in the Ballina Shire may well be over, with conservative independent Sharon Cadwallader leading the mayoral vote tally by lunchtime Tuesday.

The incumbent councillor and only woman running for the top job had won more than a third of first preference votes.

But fewer than half the 32,669 Ballina Shire voters enrolled as of 25 October had been accounted for, meaning the race was anything but certain.

Whoever wins will either be definitively conservative or progressive, regardless of their party affiliations or otherwise, ending outgoing Mayor David Wright’s legacy of clear non-partisanship.

Ballina mayoral preferences could tighten race

Jeff Johnson at Bentley. Photo David Lowe.

Residents had up to and including Election Day to enrol to vote and the final number of voters per local government area in NSW wasn’t yet known.

Fellow incumbent independent, former Greens member Jeff Johnson, was running a close second for Ballina Mayor at nearly 29% of first preferences.

Labor candidate Keith Williams looked unlikely to catch up at less than 16% of first preferences.

In the event Cr Cadwallader fails to achieve more than 50% of first preferences for mayor, she would likely be hoping for preferences from the other two conservative candidates to flow her way, despite only preferencing one on her how-to-vote cards.

Crs Eoin Johnston and Stephen McCarthy represented a combined first preference vote of 22%, enough to get Cr Cadwallader over the line if the trend continued and voting behaviour prediction bore out.

But that outcome depended on conservative voters choosing to vote preferentially and also choosing to list more than Cr Cadwallader’s recommendation of two.

Cr Cadwallader recommended putting Cr Johnston second on the mayoral ballot but ignored the third conservative candidate, Cr McCarthy.

Cr Johnston’s first preference tally of less than 15% wouldn’t be enough to get Cr Cadwallader over the line, assuming his voters put her second.

Progressive voters are broadly considered more likely to vote preferentially than conservative voters and if that theory holds true in the Ballina Shire and first preference figures stayed the same as seen Tuesday midday, Labor voters could boost Cr Johnson’s chances but he still wouldn’t edge past the required 50% either.

Ballina Shire Cr Stephen McCarthy PIC SUPPLIED

The maths then turned attention to Cr McCarthy’s voters.

Unless Cr McCarthy’s supporters were familiar with his voting patterns, there was a chance they wouldn’t know whether to class him as conservative or progressive thanks to his omission from competitor how-to-vote cards.

It was plausible Cr McCarthy’s voters mightn’t bother preferentially voting.

In that case, the race between Cr Cadwallader and Cr Johnson would become tighter and far too close to call.

Ballina’s B Ward hot seat action dependent on mayoral votes

Ballina Shire Councillor Keith Williams. Photo David Lowe.

The Ballina mayoral disappointment could be even more bitter for Labor’s Cr Williams if he doesn’t catch up in votes for council elections in the B Ward.

The B Ward is where most of the Ballina Shire Council election action is.

It’s where Cr Cadwallader is campaigning and leading at more than a third of first preferences.

But if she becomes mayor, preferences will come into play.

Those who followed Cr Cadwallader’s how-to-vote cards will have preferenced Eva Ramsey and Wendy Wishart, in that order.

At lunchtime Tuesday, Cr Cadallder’s team had enough votes to secure one of the three B Ward seats, giving newcomer Eva Ramsey a good chance.

On the other hand, if Cr Johnson wins the mayoral race, it’s fair to assume his ward voters would list The Greens second, despite his lack of how-to-vote cards.

Lennox Head resident Kiri Dicker is running for The Greens in the 2021 Ballina Shire Council election. PIC: supplied.

Greens candidate Kiri Dicker hadn’t yet reached the progressive quota of 1, 067 votes required to guarantee a seat by lunchtime Tuesday but was close at 825 and was ahead of Cr Williams for Labor at 562.

There were still more than 6,000 votes to be counted.

Rous County Council chair could lose seat

Either way, early vote counting suggested two possibilities for the three B Ward seats depending on the mayoral vote outcome.

Cr Cadwallader as mayor would likely lead to Ms Ramsey, Cr Johnson and Ms Dicker representing B Ward.

Cr Johnson as mayor would likely lead to Cr Cadwallader, Ms Dicker and Cr Williams as the representatives and potentially the only hope for Cr Williams to maintain a council seat, assuming voters for Cr Johnson and Ms Dicker preferenced Labor.

Cr Williams was Rous County Council chair representing the Ballina Shire Council alongside Cr Cadwallader until the local government elections on 4 December.

Cr Williams has repeatedly said he wants to stay on the council overseeing water security on the Northern Rivers.

Conservatives likely to hold balance for C Ward

Independent Ballina Shire Cr Eoin Johnston (PIC SUPPLIED)

In the C Ward, incumbent conservative Eoin Johnston was ahead at 43% of first preferences and had secured the progressive quota for a seat.

A second seat looked likely to go to Greens member Simon Chate who had won more than a quarter of first preferences.

ALP candidate Therese Crollick didn’t yet have enough votes to make quota for C Ward’s third seat but was slightly ahead of Cr Cadwallader’s conservative representative, Nigel Buchanan.

Preferential voting could favour Mr Buchanan though, since Cr Johnston was also conservative and had many more votes to spare than Mr Chate.

A Ward too hot to call

Nobody in the A Ward had achieved quota by lunchtime Tuesday for a seat on council.

Incumbent conservative Cr McCarthy was in the lead with 18% of first preferences but the rest of the competition was too hot to call, with five other candidates each winning more than 10%.

They were Greens candidate Jason Shrieves and Labor candidate Col Riches at more than 14% each; Phil Meehan at more than 13%; and Rick Hyde and Rod Bruem at more than 11%.

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  1. I cant understand this headline of non partisanship given that Jeff is an independent. His progressive views don’t make him partisan. Sharon is also independent.


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