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Byron Shire
February 27, 2024

Will Ballina Island sink?

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Man pedals bike through Ballina floodwaters, River Street, 1 March 2022. Photo David Lowe.

That was the question at the heart of an impassioned plea to Ballina Shire Council’s last meeting from Ballina Environment Society’s Claudia Caliari.

Ms Caliari said the BES urged council to support Cr Jeff Johnson’s rescission motion, which would reinstate council’s mandatory 0.05% margin favouring fossil-fuel-free investments over dirty alternatives. (The details of the previous debate in late March were reported by The Echo here.)

Ballina Environment Society’s statement called for council to treat the climate emergency as an emergency, operate with targets and timelines in emission reduction, and start a communication campaign to reduce community emissions and clear misinformation spread.

Ms Caliaria asked, ‘Are the independents in this council agreeing with the 97% of the climate scientists and 80% of the Ballina Shire population that is extremely or very concerned with climate change, or are you representing the interests of a minority lobbying for the FF industry?

Flooding near Ballina Fair, 2 March 2022. Photo David Lowe.

‘Next season will be bigger, and how are we preparing our community? By taking money out of the solution? I bet there are more appropriate buckets of money that we can use.

‘Our community shakes every time they hear a thunderstorm, and our farmers can’t cope with more destruction, but now they fear the next dry season.

‘Thanks to our mayor’s bold call to the governor-general, done after just three days of the floods, the federal government finally started to act faster in mitigating flood damage in our community. That is the leadership our community wants to see now to avoid our island from sinking. Where is the leadership in strategic climate investments?

‘We need to advocate more for local, state and federal climate action, and setbacks in already weak targets clearly show that this council is not prioritising that. That seems to be a smokescreen to protect someone else’s agenda.’

Claudia Caliari from the Ballina Environment Society at Ballina Shire Council, preparing for the future. Photo supplied.

Climate progress?

‘Today our Shire Climate Emergency Declaration is turning two years and five months,’ said Ms Caliari.

‘So far, we drafted a vague policy that doesn’t have targets, milestones, and worse, only aiming at corporate emissions that encompass only around 2% of the total emissions. That last item is very concerning, but more concerning is how the Climate Emergency message is being sent to our community.

‘65% of our community seems to lean on council’s lead by example to act on climate, and community emission represents roughly around 98% of total emissions. Setbacks in climate policies like that send a clear message to our community and can have enormous consequences that seem to be unnoticed by those proposing it,’ she said.

‘There is a positive feedback loop by which regulators enact policies that make certain environmental, social, and governance (ESG) practices superior in terms of financial performance, and investors encourage ESG practices that anticipate future regulation.

‘Whether Ballina Island will sink or not,’ said Ms Caliari, ‘it is ultimately a political decision and (in)action. Otherwise, I might see you guys underwater!’

Ultimately Claudia Caliari’s plea fell on unreceptive ears, when Ballina Shire Council voted against the rescission motion. Crs Dicker, Johnson, Chate and Johnston were outnumbered by Crs Cadwallader, McCarthy, Buchanan, Meehan and Bruem. Cr Eva Ramsey was not present.

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  1. Ballina cant survive the aprox 3 metre sea level rise associated with a 1.5 degree temperature rise, noting that the 1.5 degree and aprox 3 metre sea level rise is inevitable, and Ballina will join Byron Bay , Bruns etc, with a number of Pacific Nations, that will be unavoidably and permanently destroyed under the rising ocean. Australias Antarctic area has the worlds biggest glacier, which is melting from both top and bottom, and which the Australian scientists say wont stop melting under the current temp rise, and which itself will create an aprox 1.5 metre sea level rise.
    And the dominant Ballina Councillors are still promoting Ballina investing in Ballinas own destruction!!!

  2. Yes John and Sue ,
    It is terribly sad that this has occurred and not ONE of our government entities have had the sense to even try to prevent this global catastrophe, and all the accountancy fraud of Scotty, from the apologists for multinational climate crimes party, will make one damned bit of difference to Ballina , etc, etc sinking beneath the waves .
    Perhaps the GAS led recovery will kick in and stop the ocean rise , in the meantime learn to swim ! Cheers, G”)

  3. Can anyone comment on the suggestion that dredging the mouth of the Richmond River would have saved the houses at Empire Vale, South Ballina, Wardell etc.
    Our 100 year old farmhouse never flooded before. ‘Climate Change’ is such an easy answer and requires no effort to prevent happening again!

    • No Robyn, dredging the river can have no effect in reducing the flooding , as the sea-level is what limits the flow .
      The reason this has been called a record-breaking flood , is precisely because it hasn’t happened at this level for over 100 years .
      ‘Climate Change’ is NO easy answer and will require enormous efforts to limit the increasing peril we are facing.
      Cheers, G”)

  4. Based on a Mills and Boon novel. This is pure alarmism based on nothing but fear. All natural if you take time to look at the flood plains whereby history tells us the past events

    • They dam it in my eyes it has no where to go 🤔? Oceans will rise for thousands of years to come 🤔

      Have you thought about the hwy they just put in around region 🤔

  5. Such a short sighted decision from Team Cadwallader – all 4 of Sharon Cadwalladers ‘team’ have now voted against Council providing a 0.05% margin in favour of institutions and investments that are fossil fuel free.

    We are talking about Ballina Council forgoing approx $9000 per year on a $100 million term deposit fund. Furthermore, Ballina Council has previously advocated for this policy position at both the NSW and Australian local government conferences. With over $8 billion in collective funds, local government can be a powerful voice for positive change.

    Unfortunately the leadership under Mayor Cadwallader goes against the majority wishes of the community she is supposed to represent.


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