After a closed meeting of voting members in Ballina yesterday, Joshua Booyens was announced as the National Party candidate for the NSW seat of Ballina, which also includes Byron Bay. The seat is currently held by Greens MP Tamara Smith.
Political newcomer Josh Booyens lives in the electorate, and works as a senior manager in finance, although he grew up on the land. The Echo caught up with Mr Booyens straight after the pre-selection vote, at Ballina RSL.
‘This has been a long journey for me, going into politics,’ he said.
‘I’m great friends with Don Page and Ben Franklin. They’ve encouraged me over the course of the last few years to think about it. And here I am, as endorsed candidate for the NSW Nationals for the seat of Ballina. I’m looking forward to delivering.’
‘My career has been all about service – serving people and listening to people – in my banking and finance career. I’ve also been heavily involved in community, with Lismore Symphony Orchestra and various other community groups.’
Josh Booyens has been the President of the Lismore Symphony Orchestra for the last four years. The orchestra is currently rehearsing in Ballina for a series of major shows in August.
Mr Booyens said the LSO included musicians from across the Northern Rivers, from Tweed to Evans Head to Grafton ‘and everywhere in between’.
He said in all areas of his life, community involvement is what drives him, ‘listening to people and making things happen.’
Mr Booyens said he’d been living in Ballina, on and off, for more than ten years.
A hot seat
The National Party held the re-drawn NSW seat of Ballina from 1988 to 2015, under Don Page, before the electorate made history by going over to The Greens and candidate Tamara Smith during the great CSG fight in the Northern Rivers.
After preferences were distributed in the 2019 election, Ms Smith’s majority in Ballina increased, seeing off a challenge from the Nationals’ Ben Franklin, who returned to his old job in the Upper House (since becoming a minister in the Perrottet Government).
With the seat Ballina spending so many years in Nationals hands, Josh Booyens agreed there would be a lot of attention on the electorate in the leadup to the next election, which is due on 25 March 2023.
Green, warm and dry
What can people expect from you? ‘In terms of what what I stand for, we’re talking about green, warm and dry,’ said Mr Booyens.
‘I’m environmentally progressive, I absolutely believe that we can afford to invest in conservation and our environment. It’s one of the biggest resources, and impacts on all parts of the Northern Rivers.
‘The second one is people; getting out and listening to people, not having an agenda, not going out with an ideology. I simply want to be that conduit between people and government.
‘Yes, absolutely we can lead on critical issues like housing, like environment. But going back to the basics, simply listening to people and having the people drive the agenda.’
‘We’re going to be doing a lot of things, not just door knocking, but also community forums,’ said Mr Booyens. ‘You’ll see us visible at markets, we’re going to be inviting people to come and have a coffee.
‘Me personally, I want to hear from people. I want to know what it is that keeps people up at night. I want to know what it is that the local small business operator is focused on right now to keep those doors open and keep his or her family fed.’
What are the biggest issues and challenges for this electorate? ‘Housing, housing, housing, we know that,’ said Mr Booyens. ‘And the reason is not just the floods, but we’re talking natural disasters – drought, fires, flood – all have accumulated to put so much pressure on housing in this area, like nothing that’s ever been seen before.
‘We need someone to drive a shift to action, someone to coordinate local councils, state government and federal government; to start talking about how we actually find solutions, stop kicking the can down the road and being resistant to housing solutions.
‘We need all options on the table and we need to start discussing them,’ said Mr Booyens. ‘And we need to start working out how we’re going to move forward on those actions.’
Could you talk about your history with The Nationals? ‘Yes, I come from a family of farmers,’ he said. ‘The farming genes, origins, are very much in my blood.
‘I’ve always been heavily involved with Liberals and Nationals. Personally, I’ve been a member for many years. This is certainly an evolution of that.’
Ears and inbox open
Josh Booyens says he’s looking forward to delivering for the people of Ballina in a really positive way. ‘And that starts by listening. So if people wanted to reach out to me, have a conversation with me, tell me what’s on their mind, I’m here to listen.
‘We’ll get to actions down the track. Right now it’s focusing on what the priorities are for the people of Ballina.’
Mr Booyens’ team said a new campaign website will be going live very soon.