I watch in admiration once again as my northern neighbours courageously mobilise to fight unsustainable development on ecologically sensitive land in Brunswick Heads. But spare a thought for us ‘down south’ in the Ballina Shire, who are watching helplessly as our Council wages a war on our environment.
Team Cadwallader stormed into power in 2021 off the back of a well-funded TV and radio campaign, which told voters that if elected to Council ‘Labor and the Greens would force you to drink toilet water’. It was of course a reference to the environmentally destructive and ineffective Dunoon Dam, which has since faded into the oblivion, not even rating a mention in the recent Far North Coast Water Strategy.
The culmination of their ecocidal agenda was a recent decision, passed on the casting vote of the mayor, to make Conservation Zones ‘optional’ for rural landowners, exposing over 2600 hectares of densely-vegetated farmland and coastal escarpment to under-regulated land clearing.
In response, the Department of Planning and Environment declared that this decision was lacking in strategic merit, inconsistent with state government policy, and set a dangerous precedent for planning decisions in the Ballina Shire. It remains to be seen whether they will strip the Council of their planning powers in relation to this issue.
Ballina’s very own version of ‘Wallum’ is a highly sensitive wetland at Burns Point Ferry Road in West Ballina, on the Richmond River floodplain. Eight ecological studies have found this site to be teeming with endangered and threatened birds, microbats and other species. After the 2022 floods, neighbours living adjacent to the site were inundated.
The former Council (including Cadwallader, though she was not then the mayor) voted to rezone the northern part of this site for low-density residential in 2018, despite its environmental properties being well documented. Council has subsequently spent a million dollars of ratepayers’ money in legal fees fending off a rogue developer from building a seniors housing development there.
With an election less than 12 months away, the only people who can stop the Cadwallader cartel and their insatiable appetite for environmental destruction are the people who put them there in the first place.