Fear and Loathing in Las Byron
Has it really been 4 years since we last had a council election? Yes, and Saturday 10th we do it all again. The BPS scribe has attended a few of the “Meet the Candidate” extravaganzas to bring you the definitive guide – “Everything you need to know about the Byron Elections but where too afraid to ask”.
First up let me say that I am pleased with the overall quality, quanity and enthusiasm of the candidates. More bouquets than brickbats should be thrown at these community spirited souls prepared to launch themselves into the mulching machine of local politics. It isn’t for the money or the gratitude that is for sure.
From the top:
Group A - Our Sustainable Future:
Basil Cameron – Mayor
Basil has been a councillor since 2008 and deputy mayor twice. He now wants the top job. Basil is not a bad bloke and his heart is in the right place but I disagree with more than a few of his causes. He has done good work on committees and knows his way around policy and procedures. He is also a great advocate for Mullumbimby but I don’t see him getting the level of support required to get up as mayor. He has a fairly strong team: Malcolm Price at least has had experience with council, construction, social housing and planning. Ash Sennet is part of the great crew/family who run the Mullumbimby Apple shop.
Group B - The Greens:
Simon Richardson – Mayor.
Simon will probably be re-elected for mayor even with a big competitive field of five. (Please also see the separate article of “Talking to a Local”). I like Simon and am happy to see him in the chair for another four years. He is copping flack from both sides and that usually means he is trying to find the middle ground. He is supported by what looks like a fairly strong team. The #2 is Michael Lyon is the GM of Mullum health food emporium Santos and seems to run a tight ship there. Michael will be elected on the back of Green preferences. #3 Is Jeannette Martin who runs the Mullumbimby Community Garden. I do not know #4, Sarah Ndiaye, but I have friends who do and they will be voting below the line just to highlight her.
Group C - Country Labour:
Paul Spooner – Mayor
Paul is a strong candidate and will probably get up again as councillor but I doubt as the mayor. He is in training in politics and looking for a state or Federal seat in the future. He has a confusing attitude towards the Rail Trail and is a strong advocate for affordable housing. This is a great challenge but with no plausible way to implement it may be just political hot air. He is apparently well liked by the staff at the Community Centre, which speaks volumes to me. I don’t know any of his team so will not comment.
Group D: The Middle Ground
Rose Wanchap – Mayor
No one has attracted as much ire and vehemence during the last term as this red headed real estate agent. She was elected as a Green and then jumped ship to be an independent – and then (Shock Horror!) often voted with the so-called “pro development majority”. I would be surprised if she was re-elected given the degree of hatred and animosity against her but some people think she has the numbers. This will be interesting to watch. If nothing else, she deserves credit for standing again and being prepared to cop more flak from the gallery.
James Wright – Councillor
JW is the youth ticket. He is mid 30s and a bit hip and innovative. Is promoting the idea of wider democratic participation via modern technology – i.e. plebiscite voting on issues via mobile phone. Also advocates for Creative Industries, affordable housing, etc. Anyone wanting to throw a curve ball in council and shake it up a bit could do worse then put a vote here.
Gail Fuller – Councillor
Gail is a real estate agent, principal of Byron Coastal REA as well as the president of the Byron Bay Chamber of Commerce. This will be three big black marks against her right off the bat for some in the shire. There is an opinion gaining traction that real estate agents, as well as developers, should not stand for council elections. I don't agree as the level of transparency makes conflict-of-interest issues more than manageable and its an advantage to have people knowledgeable about DA's, commercial property and rental issues. I have known her over the years and found her to be likeable and undramatic. She has a cute promo line - A Fuller Future.
As a side bar to this; I noticed with interest our local paper outing Gail as a follower of Lismore guru Serge Benhayan and Universal Medicine. I found this a bit rich as someone's spiritual endeavours should have no reflection on how they conduct themselves in public service - unless they promote their religious beliefs and do not seperate church and state. It's also rich if you know that the original founders of this same paper were once followers of Guru Maharaji and the Divine Light Mission. Pot shouldn't call the kettle black.
Group G - Nationals:
Alan Hunter - Mayor
Alan is a sitting councillor and heads the Nationals ticket and is a candidate for mayor. Its possible he could beat Simon for mayor. The numbers were close last election with Di Woods just behind Simon in the final count. People walking around trendy towns like Bangalow and Mullumbimby have some kind of myopia and do not see all the traditional voters in their midst. They are just the colourful extras to the tree changer's personal internal movie. The good thing about Hunter is he is not an ideological conservative, just a straight dude who likes to farm and run some cattle. His bad side surfaced with his naughty behaviour when he continued to run a trucking/storage facility at his property in Myocum without consideration to the neighbours. His number two, who will probably be elected on preferences, is Marc Patten, a retired policeman and volunteer soccer coach.
Cate Coorey – Councillor
Cate is fairly new to town and the firebrand behind the Byron Residents Group, which is opposing the West Byron residential development and others. She presented quite well at these events as she has had media and PR experience. She and her group are more binary and singular of purpose than even Simon’s Green team. She has a fairly large vocal following and it will be interesting to see if she actually has the numbers to get a seat.
George Graham – Councillor
At the Meet the Candidates events, this guy came across as interesting and likable. He is the Nick Xenathon of the Byron local election. Born in Bangalow and lived in Byron his whole life, he is a good bloke with a sense of humour and a brain and strongly independent and against parties politics. Something I also encourage and find the prevalence of political parties entering local politics to be unfortunate. (Coincidentally, an issue that Echo founder Nick Shand also railed against).
Matt Hartley – Councillor
Mathew Hartley is a serious possum stirrer and serial letter to the editor writer. He gets about in a wheel chair after an accident jumping off the rocks at the pass at low tide. He has a lot of bile for holiday letting as well as for Mayor Simon. Anyone wanting to throw a live grenade into council debates – this is your device.
Jack Sugarman – Mayor
Jack has been running for mayor every local election for as long as I can remember. He is a single-issue candidate and that is to shut down the council and amalgamate it. I also think he just likes to be out on the hustings and getting a bit of attention. Even though there are more than a few who share his view, I am always intrigued to see that he takes his mission seriously.
The Greens will get at least one plus Simon as Mayor. Alan Hunter's team will also probably get an extra one. Labour’s Paul Spooner will also get back in. The remaining four seats will be some kind of combination of a third Green, Basil Cameron or Cate Coorey, Gail Fuller or Rose Wanchap, or a dark horse like George Graham or James Wright. I think the best outcome is Simon for Mayor but not in a green majority council so I will be voting for individuals without party affiliations below the line.