In its first meeting since the floods, Ballina Shire Council powered through with lots of unanimous decisions and broad support for Mayor Sharon Cadwallader’s handling of the recent crisis.
Cr Nigel Buchanan was not present, as he was dealing with flood damage to his business in Wardell. Other councillors explained how they had also been personally impacted by the flooding.
There were public deputations from citizens including Alan Nicholls, who was concerned about planned developments at Florence Price Place (on land originally donated to council to build low-cost accommodation), Joel Orchard (talking about Wardell CORE), Ballina resident Margery Fitzgerald regarding serious erosion damage near the North Creek Wall cycle path, and Steve Connelly speaking in favour of the new plan for the Ballina Heights Commercial Centre.
Mayor Cadwallader’s Mayoral Minute regarding the Northern Rivers Flood was well received and gained unanimous support, with the addition of a point supported by Cr Simon Chate to provide rebates for property owners who have used excess water as part of the flood recovery process (with reference to historic usage patterns).
Cr Cadwallader said, ‘We look forward to everyone working together to ensure that all local government areas in our region recover as quickly as possible. It has been extraordinary the amount of support that has come, community helping community… and from all emergency service personnel.
‘It has been remarkable. My sincere thanks go out to one and all, everyone that’s been involved,’ she said.
On the issue of the housing emergency, Cr Cadwallader said, ‘I’ve spoken with the Premier about that, also with the Prime Minister, that we would like something to happen as far as a social housing project goes.
‘I’m not saying that council have to be the lead agent on that. The state government and federal government need to work with council to make these projects a reality. We had 200 homeless people in Ballina Shire prior to this event,’ she said. ‘The time is right now to move on to actually practical solutions. So we need to be pushing for that.’
Development and restoration
This was followed by a discussion about the long-delayed Ballina Heights/Cumbalum shopping centre development, now proposed for a new, lower site. Councillors voted unanimously to progress the new plan, with the proviso that a larger area be made available for ‘attainable’ housing within the Voluntary Planning Agreement.
There was also unanimous support for a notice of motion to seek assistance to do something about the eroding rock wall adjoining North Creek between Missingham Bridge, Owen Street and Norton Street, which was further damaged by recent flooding and is currently fenced off where several sinkholes have appeared.
Changeover of ward committee orgs
After morning tea, a number of organisations were approved for membership to ward committees (liaising directly with council), including new organisations such as Wardell CORE.
Some councillors questioned whether it was appropriate for government-related orgs to be committee members (such as NSW Sport & Recreation at Lennox), but staff assured them that such connections had been helpful in the past.
Organisations leaving ward committes included the Ballina Chamber of Commerce, Ballina Coastcare, Alstonville Lions and the Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore Surf Lifesaving Club.
Councillors voted unanimously to progress planning proposals at Anchorage Avenue Lennox Head and land classifications at Skennars Head and Cumbalum.
Investments and fees
A rubberstamp of council investments turned into a debate after Cr Rod Bruem successfully argued for the removal of a mandatory 0.05% margin currently considered on reputational and environmental considerations for investments.
Council unanimously agreed to waive DA fees for Ballina Hockey Club amounting to $1,893. Cr Steve McCarthy said he was a supporter of the motion. ‘Anything that’s going to put confidence back into the community right now, and that is affordable, should be waived,’ he said.
This was followed by a debate about whether people from outside the area should be allowed to sit on the Audit Risk and Improvement Committee. This was eventually approved with Cr Phil Meehan the dissenting voice.
Too much work
A discussion about tenders, including for the installation of new pavers as part of Lennox Village Vision, revealed that the current labour market meant that tradies and companies were all too busy to be interested in the job.
This was followed by a confidential discussion about the transfer of the sub-lease of the Ballina Gallery Cafe, which was eventually approved.
Councillors noted that Mayor Sharon Cadwallader had been very busy in recent weeks, both on the ground with evacuees and with official engagements including meetings with the Governor-General, Prime Minister, Deputy Premier and various federal ministers.
‘It’s a pretty good list of your best friends,’ said Cr Eoin Johnston.
‘It helps to build relationships with decision makers, I have to say, it certainly does,’ said Mayor Cadwallader.
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