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June 24, 2024

Koalas, climate action and keeping real estate agents out of councils: Tamara Smith’s return to parliament

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Tamara Smith. Photo Tree Faerie.

Greens Member for Ballina Tamara Smith says she’ll be supporting a Labor proposal to ban real estate agents and property developers from NSW local governments.

Members of the state’s legislative assembly are due to meet in parliament today for the first time in 2022.

Labor upper house member Walt Secord introduced the bill to change rules around qualifying for local government two years ago.

It’s illegal in NSW for property developers to be members of parliament but local government, where most regional development decisions are made, was still open to real estate agents and developers wanting a seat on councils by the time delayed elections happened in December 2021.

The legislative council passed Mr Secord’s bill without any changes in 2020 but it has stalled in the lower house since, with a second reading on Tuesday’s parliamentary agenda.

Real estate speculation the ‘antithesis of what people want in councillors’, says Ballina MP

‘Real estate speculation is the antithesis of what people want in councillors,’ Ms Smith told Bay FM’s Community Newsroom on Friday.

‘That is not in any way demonizing real estate agents,’ Ms Smith continued, ’but the conflict of interest when you are literally the decision-makers around developments, that you would have that direct fiscal agenda is just, I think, a bridge too far’.

The Greens member said her party already banned real estate agents from running for pre-selection in local government but acknowledged the rule came after a lesson learned the hard way.

‘We did have a prior real estate agent who was in The Greens quite notoriously,’ Ms Smith said, ‘and we’ve changed our rules locally, so that that can’t happen’.

Byron’s branch of The Greens was scandalised two council terms ago when one of its members, also a real estate agent, won a seat on the Byron Shire Council and voted against fellow party members in support of controversial development applications.

‘I think that the community expect their local government representatives to be community minded,’ Ms Smith said.

Winning Lismore mayoral campaign likened to pork-barrelling

The state representative for Ballina said she was looking forward to working with the two recently elected mayors in her electorate, Sharon Cadwallader for Ballina and Michael Lyon for Byron.

Ms Smith was especially pleased to see a woman representing The Greens on the Ballina Shire Council for the first time: Kiri Dicker.

But she expressed disappointment with the winning campaign undertaken in the neighbouring Lismore local government area.

Newcomer Mayor Steve Krieg convincingly won the top job after campaigning alongside a team of thirteen other candidates, despite the council only having eleven seats.

The tactic meant anyone in Lismore who voted 1 for Mr Krieg on the council form without taking the time to preference below the line effectively preferenced all fourteen members of Mr Krieg’s team.

The team went on to win a six-seat majority.

‘I don’t like it, I don’t think the community like that kind of behaviour so overtly at local government level,’ Ms Smith said.

‘But it’s hard, you know, it’s not illegal,’ she said, ‘it’s a bit like pork barrelling’.

‘It doesn’t pass the pub test, it doesn’t pass the integrity test.’

Ms Smith said she thought people in Lismore were ‘just desperate for a change’ but warned voters to ‘be careful what they wish for’.

‘All of those councillors are inexperienced and I do not think having inexperienced mayors is a good idea,’ the Greens member said.

The state politician said until councillors received ‘a living wage’ she couldn’t see much hope for improvements in local government campaigns.

‘Over the border, in Queensland, councillors get paid $80,000 a year, our people get less than $20,000,’ Ms Smith said, ‘and so they have to keep full time jobs’.

‘I think it’s time that we really lift the standard.’

Climate action and saving koalas at top of Ballina MP agenda

In keeping with traditional Greens’ environmental values, Ms Smith highlighted two related matters to come before the legislative assembly this week.

The Ballina MP had sponsored a petition originating from Clarence Valley voters calling on the government to purchase critical koala habitat in Port Macquarie.

Nearly 25,000 people had signed the petition as of Tuesday morning.

Notes on the petition referred to a 200-hectare piece of land at 147 Ruins Way as ‘the largest piece of privately-owned unburnt core koala habitat east of the Pacific Highway’.

‘The property also provides habitat for numerous other threatened species including the critically endangered Swift Parrot and Regent Honeyeater, plus threatened forest owls, Square-tailed Kite, Little Lorikeet, Varied Sitella, Glossy-Black Cockatoo and Grey-headed Flying Fox,’ the notes read.

The property had been earmarked for residential development but Ms Smith said new NSW environment minister James Griffin had effectively quashed those plans.

‘It’s very welcome news,’ Ms Smith said, ‘but I’ll still take the opportunity to highlight that koalas are headed towards extinction across the state and that so much more needs to be done’.

The Greens member said her party would support a Labor climate change bill introduced by Lakemba MP Jihad Dib but would be suggesting amendments.

Labor’s emissions targets and ambitions for NSW were too conservative, Ms Smith said.





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  1. Yeah nice one Greens. Koalas are the focus now hey!!! Used to be the Richmond river… which you forgot about and the Koala is a bigger selling point. Green by name, not by nature.

  2. Can anyone please tell me what Tamara Smith has achieved in her terms???? Environmentally significant stuff that is to justify her Greens rep

    • Rather pointless putting “koalas at the top of the agenda” when you’re allowing the environment to be detrestroyed and carved up by canyons of tar and concrete for more koala killing cars. This policy of the state government is not only killing koalas and people, it’s costing taxpayers a fortune.

      Ms Smith had a wonderful opportunity to be remebered for doing something great for her community-DEMAND the state govenrmen get the trains running on our train line as the community had been calling for, and promised by local MPs, for years. Trains would not only provide public transport for millions, but also help save koala (and human) lives and habitat, as well as providing massive social, environmental and economic benefits for the whole community.

  3. Tamara has achieved GREAT things in her term in office & I for one am bloody glad (elated ) to have her as our local MP. Go check out her website & actually read the Echo & not just have a pre determined view , BEFORE you read of her obvious achievements. Tamara is one of a only a few pollies who have spoken out for Koalas over the years / attended rallies / spoke regularly with local Koala rescue/tree planting groups like the ones I belong to/lobbied Councils for practical protection/supported the Great Koala National Park /argued for appropriate legislative protection for koalas in NSW parliament etc She has a genuine commitment to our ecology (You know that ‘thing’ that actually gives us all life) and has walked her talk since she first got elected. OMG you can’t say that for many politicians , so pay attention and be damn grateful for an ‘endangered’ species like Tamara.

  4. She doesn’t have to do anything really…
    In the greens becoming elected in a once rusted on Nationals / Libs seat has now created a Marginal seat.
    What does this mean?
    Heaps really..all of it in favour of our electorate…both major political parties are” gagging at the bit” to win this seat back again…
    You just have to look around at Mr Hogan and Ben Franklin throwing money and more grants at the electorate…a week doesn’t go by when you see both political hacks announcing or giving money to projects in this state / federal electorate..
    Just to give you an example what has occurred in the last 5 years…and compare this to when the Nationals were in for over 30..
    Alstonville Bypass
    Ballina Bypass
    Lismore Hospital Upgrade
    Tweed Heads new hospital
    Byron Bus terminus
    Byron New Hospital
    Cundgen Bypass
    Ballina new High school
    Ballina New Indoor Centre
    Local council grant increases.
    There is more happening in this electorate now because it is now recognised as a Marginal Seat for both major parties.
    So if it means electing another independent / Green or whom ever to keep the major political parties focused on us..then all for the better.

    • Might a good idea to check electorate boundaries. Tweed and Lismore hospitals are not in the Ballina electorate nor is the Cubdgen by-pass.
      The new Byron Hospital was the result of decades of hard work by local residents, and, along with the bus transit centre, plans were completed and funding provided more than five years ago.

  5. (Quote) ‘‘That is not in any way demonizing real estate agents,’ Ms. Smith continued’.
    Yes – you are Tamara ! Good for votes – but eventually bad news for ratepayers’ interests.
    But in reality I think she really knows what swingeing declarations of interest are required by law before doing any public service job on a NSW council.
    Every Council should have one real estate professional on-tap for expert property advice.
    Otherwise, they end up making partisan/politically-based decisions.

    • Oh right. Just what we all need. More development, environmental degredation and destruction of the planet and our children’s future.


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