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Byron Shire
May 23, 2024

Wrapup of first meeting of new Ballina Council

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Ballina Shire Council. Photo David Lowe.

The first meeting of the year was a very different affair to 2021, with David Wright no longer in the mayor’s chair and a number of new councillors finding their way into their roles. A new deputy mayor and Rous County Council representatives were also elected.

The meeting began with an emotional speech from incoming Mayor Sharon Cadwallader. ‘This opportunity is one I treasure and I will give everything to meet the highest expectations of every resident in Ballina Shire. We are a tight-knit community in a stunning location,’ she said.

Mayor Sharon Cadwallader. Photo David Lowe.

‘We’re here to represent diverse constituencies. And whatever our disagreements, each of you stand on the shoulders of the residents who voted for you. Those views deserve to be heard, and respectfully considered.’

Cr Cadwallader concluded by expressing her heartfelt thanks to her supporters and husband Bruce, who ‘worked with me on my doubts and disappointments, and believed that having this dream was possible.’

Cr Eoin Johnston said, ‘We’ve got a great responsibility. It’s a great honour for me to be re-elected.’ Speaking about the recent Australia Day Award winners, he said, ‘I was most impressed by the efforts of the individuals and the community groups.

Cr Eoin Johnston. Photo supplied

‘A lot of us think we’re important because we’re councillors or we’re doing something else, but there’s lots of people in the community who just chip away for years and years doing great things for other people,’ he said.

New Councillor Rod Bruem said, ‘I thank those who’ve shown confidence in me. It has been a lifelong ambition of mine to serve in this way.’ He said local government was a great honour, ‘because so much of what we’re responsible for is very close to people’s daily lives.’


The first item of business was the proposed Wollongbar Wildlife hospital, which cleared its next hurdle towards a DA, despite the vociferous objections of some neighbours. This was followed by a discussion about alcohol-free zones, which many councillors expressed misgivings about, but voted for anyway, apart from Cr Jeff Johnson.

After morning tea there was a discussion about development approval delays, which are largely the result of a council staff shortage. That problem is partially caused by the shortage of anywhere affordable for potential staff to live – a thorny circular dilemma.

Cr Rod Bruem. Photo David Lowe.


Rod Bruem stuck his toe in the water with a motion to have expensive by-elections rather than countbacks in the case of councillors having to leave early. This was narrowly voted down.

The position of Deputy Mayor went to Eoin Johnston, who also successfully argued for the Deputy Mayor’s term to be extended.

Mayor Cadwallader’s conservative supporters bloc ensured she and Cr Rod Bruem were elected in the two crucial Rous County Council positions, representing Ballina on issues relating to water and weeds across the region, entrenching the pro-Dunoon Dam faction among the eight prospective councillors who look likely to overturn the direction of previous Rous Chair Keith Williams and his supporters, none of whom will be returning to Rous this time.

Channon Gorge area threatened by proposed Dunoon Dam. Photo David Lowe.

Earlier Cr Bruem said the dam had been the biggest issue of the recent election campaign, claiming it was clear to him that ‘our future water security had been jeopardized by the former Rous County Council.

‘People were angry at what they saw as the proper planning processes being abandoned because of pressure from one particular lobby group,’ he said.

A number of other committee positions were also determined, with responsibilities shared between new and continuing councillors.


Flat Rock camping fees went up, and the delivery program and capital expenditure program was waved through, with GM Paul Hickey pointing out there were some challenges ahead with prioritising various expensive road and bridge projects.

The troublesome section of Ross Lane, with nearby cane fields flooded. Photo David Lowe.

One of these which might become council’s problem, or the state’s, is floodproofing Ross Lane. Council agreed to ensure this project was dealt with as a priority.

The meeting heard from Mark Turner, Treasurer of the Ballina Chamber of Commerce, that despite Ballina weathering the COVID storm reasonably well compared to some areas, businesses were suffering, particularly on River Street, with knock-on effects on tourism.

Mayor Cadwallader backed Mr Turner’s idea of a Business Taskforce to examine the issue, which found unanimous support.


Late in the meeting it was back to water issues again, with staff revealing there was still a large amount of water being lost around Ballina Shire, despite improvements.

Cr Jeff Johnson. Photo David Lowe.

After the meeting, Cr Jeff Johnson told The Echo he was disappointed not to be elected to Rous, but would continue to push Ballina to plug holes in the water delivery system and increase the uptake of recycled water, as well as backing initiatives like rooftop water harvesting in new land releases such as Cumbalum.

‘Leaking pipes is a major issue in the Rous network,’ he said. ‘In the Ballina Shire 19.5% off all bulk water purchased from Rous is lost through leaking pipes in the network. That is a massive amount of water. When you consider there is a proposal for a $600 million dam, surely a priority short term action would be to minimise the leaks.

‘A key for me is to reduce the pressure on the highly treated drinking water that Rous produces, even though less than 2% off it is actually consumed,’ said Cr Johnson.

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  1. It’s clear there’s been not one mention of the river health that was once a priority, but no longer. Something that’s fallen by the way side, yet clear as day in the picture of the flooded cane field that has all it’s top soil polluting North Creek. Shameful

  2. Right, so in chronologlai form we have this Report that does no put issues in a sequence of importance to the community.
    What seems to be important is Mayor Cadwallader sucking up to the community. Why would she do that.
    When a woman cries about being “helpless” it means she wants something.
    I can’t make any sense of all the rest of what actually happened?
    Will the emotion be taken out of it and then we can make some sense of what direction the new Council is headed.
    To dam or not to dam is the damn biggest issue as it decides all the other issues.
    To not have a dam does not mean water security is jeopardised.
    To put in a dam does mean the environment is jeopardised.
    Will someone act like a proper councillor and ask for a pay rise.
    Then you have an excuse to look after the environment.


    • the dam option has the least long term environmental impact out of all other options, yes it will change the environment but it will also assure increased environmental protection of the catchment area. in 100 years people will think the dam has always existed and thank us for having the courage and vision to build it. or we dont build a dam the land that is owned by rous county council gets sold off to be macca farms again or to some celebrity looking for a place to set up a new age retreat.

  3. If Ballina’s leakage is 19.5%, ratepayers should demand that the management of the water supply be taken from the council and professional, responsible and competent managers appointed. Leakage that high means water is 24% more expensive than it should be. If leakage is this bad, why hasn’t it been fixed? Politicians seen to be poorly performing lose their jobs, maybe if council management lost their jobs as well then some action may be taken.

  4. So last century the lot!! Doing the work 😦of developers you ignorant coastal mob. You lot need to learn how to stop wasting water, to use water tanks & turn taps off & fix your water wastage which is critical! Get off your gmo & chemical food, it’s starting to show.
    Cadwallader & Bruem are proposing a bigger fight than Bentley. Keep pushing & they’ll see the huge huge fight that they’re in for. It will make Bentley look like a practice run. Remember we’ve all been pushed around, licked down & were are sick of townie inadequacy! Game on ‼️🤗😡

  5. Voting for the Dunoon dam, would be a clear admission of carelessness of our precious environment and First Nation’s heritage, and a total disregard for the many stated ways of making this huge error of destruction, totally unnecessary.
    Ballina and Rous councils must wake up on behalf of our future children’s ability to access and admire our unique and awesome Channon Gorge, before making such a decision.

  6. Damn right Gary… Instead what will happen from mismanagement issues that you and I may get a rate rise… that’s the solution that fixes all problems. Are you even aware that we now have a healthy water way levy added to our Ballina Shire rate and continue to have the unhealthiest river in NSW… that is a fact. Years after this rate levy was introduced, but at least we have some fresh sand around Shaws bay and a lovely bike path… never mind the ecological disaster of a river that feeds this area. Total unaccountability!

  7. ‘Leaking pipes is a major issue in the Rous network,’ he (Cr Johnson) said. ‘In the Ballina Shire 19.5% off all bulk water purchased from Rous is lost through leaking pipes in the network.
    That is in the Ballina LGA..what about Lismore, Byron and the villages in between..even if those 2 LGA lost 10% each of the bulk water allocation from Rous water..add in Ballina..you would be looking at close 40% of all the bulk water supplied by Rous being lost in these LGA’s pipe infrastructure.
    Yet build a $600 million dam for water security some are saying…the newly minted Ballina Mayor being one such proponent…and yet we are losing all this bulk water.
    I am I missing something here?

    • if theycant fix the pipes how are they going to go maintaining water desalinization and recycling plants over the long term, fixing the leaks
      plus a few new Dams and tanks are the best solution for the environment.


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