Tweed Byron Greens were formed in 1993 following the first Green’s Federal election campaign in the seat of Richmond where our candidate Jo Faith received more than 4% of the vote. Long term local, Ian Cohen had been a long standing Greens candidate in elections since 1987. The group covered the three shires of Tweed, Byron and Ballina and was affiliated with the newly formed Greens NSW.
The formation of the local group created the opportunity for The Greens to organize locally and to field candidates in elections. By contesting elections locally the Greens have been able to present to the community the values and policies of the party and highlight the failings of the major parties. Since the group’s formation, every local, state and federal election has been contested by the group.
Byron Shire Council history
Byron Shire was traditionally a very conservative area, with a community of farmers and workers who were employed in sand mining, whaling, dairy and meat works. In the 70’s the area was discovered by surfers and alternative thinkers and things started to change.
In 1980 Anudhi Wentworth was elected to the Byron Shire Council, she was the first environmental candidate and served for 15 years. With the support of environmental organization BEACON she played an important role in the early protection of the significant natural environment and strongly opposed the many inappropriate developments. In the following elections up until 1991, the support grew and there were achievements that defined the character of Byron Shire as we know it today.
The majority progressive council achieved many important outcomes including the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) that enshrined environmental zones in the planning document as a state first, height limit restrictions, the implementation of the coastal erosion ‘planned retreat’ principle , the development of the West Byron wetland sewerage plant and the formulation of a tourism strategy ‘Keeping Byron Unique’.
1991 The Backlash
The Councils’ agenda to protect the environment and constrain inappropriate development did attract the ire of the pro development lobby. In 1991 the elections delivered a backlash and a new council was installed that sought to deliver ‘progress’, which like today assumed the mantra that development was good and created prosperity. The election had retained Ian Kingston as the popularly elected mayor but without a progressive majority.
1995 – The Comeback- first Greens elected to the State and Byron Council
The State election in March saw the first Green elected to the NSW Parliament, Ian Cohen, he served until 2011.
In September 1995 the first Greens candidate, Richard Staples, was elected to Byron Shire Council along with a number of progressive independent candidates
In 1996 the Council adopted the ‘Greenprint for a Sustainable Future’, a program of reform that defined the environmental and social programs that needed to be developed to progress a new direction for the shire including Biodiversity Conservation , Settlement plans, Affordable Housing, Sustainable Agriculture, Coastal and Estuary, Culture, Social Impact Assessment, Sewerage, Wastewater and Waste, Flood and Disability.
1997 – The Big Debt – $7m
In 1997 it was revealed that council had a $7m debt primarily due to the building of the new council chambers in Mullumbimby.
1999 – 2 Green Councillors
In the 1999 council election Jan Barham joined Richard Staples as elected Greens on Byron Council. Tom Wilson was elected as mayor with the support of the Greens.
2002 By-election – now we are 4
In 2002 a bye-election delivered 2 new Green councillors Sandra Heilpern and Duncan Dey.
2004 – Australia’s first popularly elected Green Mayor
In 2004, Jan Barham led the Green ticket for the council elections and was successful in becoming the first popularly elected Green Mayor in Australia. The Greens secured four council positions with Richard Staples, Tom Tabart and John Lazarus.
This was a deciding moment in the Shire’s history, the first Green and female mayor and a record number of Green elected representatives. With ten councilors, the Greens were the largest group and needed only one vote with the Mayors casting vote or two additional votes to pass Resolutions. (Councils do not pass laws, but Resolutions, which Council staff implement).
2008 – Green Mayor re-elected , 4 Green Councillors retained
In 2008, the Greens again presented Jan for Mayor and she was re-elected with a 17% increased vote and was joined by 3 other councilors including Richard Staples, Tom Tabart and Simon Richardson.
In the election a very high profile and expensive anti Greens advertising campaign by the Byron Bay’s Chamber of Commerce included many full and half pages of advertising but the Greens vote increased. Even though the number of Councillors reduced from ten to nine, four Greens were elected, the new one being the 2012 Greens Mayoral candidate, Simon Richardson,
Despite the negative campaigning, the Greens were able to report to the community that their stewardship had delivered positive outcomes for the shire.
The restrictive council debt provided time for project planning and so when the debt expired in 2005, council was ready to go with a number of projects. The essential Sewerage Treatment Plant upgrades were the major priority. Bangalow and the award winning West Byron Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) were completed. The implementation of the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy, the ongoing opposition of inappropriate development and the development of the Tourism Management Plan were achieved, Mullumbimby Civic Centre and the Byron Youth Activities Centre were upgraded and Suffolk Park sportsfield and Mullumbimby and Bangalow skateparks were constructed, The Cultural Plan was developed and the Coastal Zone Management plan progressed, despite ongoing legal challenges. Roads were repaired and cycleways built and some but not all pot holes were filled.
More local green groups
As Greens issues cemented themselves in the region, the Tweed Byron Greens went through some changes. The establishment of separate Tweed and Ballina groups resulted.
The last term of council has seen some long awaited positive outcomes and some ongoing frustrations with State Government processes. The new library will be opened late in 2012. Brunswick Valley STP has been recognized with a national local government award. After 20 years the construction of new sporting fields in Byron Bay became a reality. A new draft LEP is completed, despite ongoing changes by the state government. The Helen Street footbridge was finally built to connect the Ocean Shores community, Suffolk Park Childcare centre is open and operating and new bikeways, skateparks and upgrades to community centres were delivered.
In the meantime Mayor Barham was encouraged to stand for the NSW State Government’s Upper House, the Legislative Council in the 2011 election. Jan is not contesting the 2012 election, after 13 years on council. Cr Staples and Tabart will also be leaving council after many years of service.
2012 – Simon Richardson for Mayor, a recycled Green and New Greens
With Simons experience on council and in the community he has been selected as the Mayoral candidate. Simon is joined by some new Green candidates, Rose Wanchap, Jim Beatson, Clare Hocking and Rhonda Khong and recycled Councillor (2002 -2004) Duncan Dey.