Ballina Chamber of Commerce Questions

Ballina Chamber of Commerce has provided all candidates with a number of question's they are interested in.

It's extremely hard to answer them all in detail in one 5 minute speech so in order to give each question a detailed enough answer it deserves I've put together a 25/30 minute podcast covering these questions.

Questions the chamber provided were:

  • What is your vision for the Ballina Shire for the next 20 years?
  • What are the big ticket items for the Ballina Shire for the next 4-8 years?
  • How do you see the Council interacting with small and medium size businesses?
  • Council is involved in the Small Business Friendly Council’s program. What recommendations do you have that would make Council more encouraging of new business investment and growth of existing business.
  • Do you think, if elected, you will be able to engage in constructive debate, not speak to the person next to you while another Councillor tables their position, avoid laughing at people while they are delivering a deputation, vote on the issue on the table irrespective of who put it forward, change your position based on what other Councillor or community members put forward - if you see merit in their argument, and refrain from indulging in factional behaviour that ultimately undermines good governance?
  • Ballina Chamber of Commerce believes that we need to take greater advantage of the Town’s location on the Richmond River. Unfortunately development and embellishment of the foreshore of Ballina Island has in the past and continues to take place in a very ad hoc way. Would you commit Council to preparing a visionary masterplan of Ballina Island which will ensure we use our riverfront setting in a manner that gives the best possible outcome for the future of Ballina and the CBD?
  • In May 2015, IPART approved a rate increase for Ballina Shire ratepayers based on Council spending $8.1M to upgrade the Ballina and Alstonville pools. Later in 2015 a Council appointed consultant estimated the costs for the pool upgrading works at $11.4M. Because of the very cursory nature of that estimate, BCCI believes that the actual costs will likely be closer to $14M. We note it is intended that the upgrading work will entail demolition of all of the original Ballina Pool infrastructure. BCCI believes the Ballina pool site is much better suited to other higher value uses that are  more complementary to the CBD. Would you commit Council to undertaking a fresh look at the pool upgrading project including examination of re-siting the Ballina pool to another location?
  • Do you feel the gateways extending into the town need significant improvements (street trees, gardens, signage, etc) and, if so, will you push for council to allocate significant funding to such a project.
  • Do you believe council has a role to play in economic development and, if so, how to you see this would be facilitated.
  • Do you have comments on the Emerging Regional Centre Strategy or the two recently commissioned Marina Masterplans? What is your position on recommendations?
  • Ballina Chamber of Commerce boasts 300+ members which is 19% of all employing businesses in the Ballina Shire and 7.5% of all businesses in the LGA.  Combined with Alstonville and Lennox Chambers those figures go up to 25.5% and 9.5%. We are considered extremely proactive within the Chamber movement in NSW and our voluntary Board of Management spend considerable time keeping abreast of local governance and policy issues and engaging with Council and other stakeholders. If elected, will you actively engage with Ballina Chamber of Commerce and regularly attend our meetings?

Check out my highly entertaining Podcast on these issues below...

30 minutes of discussion on the Chamber Interview Questions

DPI Abandons Eco Shark Net Trial

It seems that the DPI have listened to the community and have decided to abandon the ECo Shark Barrier proposal..

My position is that if the state government intend on pursuing some kind of shark netting, they need to follow the gold coast model, regardless, for now this is a good result.

Cr Ben Smith

NSW Department of Primary Industry




The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) today announced the Eco Shark Barrier trial at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina, is in the process of being discontinued. Following a third unsuccessful attempt to install the barrier, Eco Shark Barrier Pty Ltd identified significant installation and maintenance issues. Eco Shark Barrier advised DPI that it was unsafe to install due to adverse environmental conditions. These conditions include consistent large swells and sand movement changing the water depth. The trial was one of two testing barrier technology in Australian east coast conditions - the other is Global Marine Enclosures (GME) trial at Seven Mile Beach, Lennox Head, which is continuing. NSW DPI will continue to work closely with the Ballina Shire community to explore complementary shark mitigation technologies included in the Strategy and suited to local conditions. Along with the barrier trial, the Strategy includes aerial surveillance, a shark tagging program and related VR4G listening stations, and trials of smart drumlines, sonar ‘Clever Buoys’ and drone surveillance.

Mark O’Brien, 6391 3686


Ocean Pool - An example of a nice idea that fails the test of reality

Let me start of by saying that the concept of a "no cost" ocean pool at or near Shelly Beach is a "nice idea".

One of the things you learn about politics, and most of the public would have figured this one out by now, is that ideas are tossed around all the time, idea's cost nothing, they don't require any level of congruency or integrity as "they're just ideas", they don't require money because again "they're just an idea" and they generate lots of publicity because ideas get people talking (Which Politicians love).

For every project idea you've heard on the news, probably 1 in 100 have ever actually gone ahead.  But all of those 100 helped gain the politician who mentioned them free publicity.

This is where I will give Cr Jeff Johnson credit, he has mastered the "art of the idea" every other week he pushes out a thought bubble that generates publicity and discussion.

Everyone in business knows, ideas are just brain farts and have little to no value at all in comparison to execution, I guarantee you for every business success, there has been at least 100 other people with the same idea, it's just one individual executed it better.

The problem with ideas is when they meet the concept of reality (Classic example of this Nationally is the Bullet Train, by the way, I'm not saying a Bullet Train is physically impossible, I've rode the Shinkansen across Japan, but it doesn't add up right now and there are impractical hurdles).

Ocean Pools across the country (many of which were built post World War 2) were pretty neat things at the time,  In recent history however, most of the councils that have them under control have been rationalising them and closing them.

The biggest reason is cost, places like Wollongong have had maintenance costs of approx 200k per year to keep them operational.

There are a whole bunch of other environmental, and logistical reasons but lets just focus on the cost aspect for now.

When Cr Jeff Johnson Proposed an Ocean Pool for Ballina he said it would come at absolutely no cost to council, and the whole thing would be produced by volunteers.  Pie in the sky stuff, but of course on that basis council gave the idea it's blessing, the shark attacks gave momentum to such an idea at the time so away the idea went.

A few months later,  the idea met reality, you need professionals to do up your planning documentation for approvals, so Jeff asked council for $15,000 to get the approvals, this is the point at which I said no and now I will explain exactly why.

Whether he agrees with this or not, Jeff through his free publicity for his idea has created the expectation that council will build an ocean pool.

This is wrong and this needs to be made 100% clear.

Over a year and a half ago, Council went to the ratepayers to ask for an increase in rates to support the upgrades of the pools in Ballina and Alstonville, this was a big deal and a massive expense, people's pensions aren't going up 5% a year but the rates will under this proposal.

There is no way under any circumstances can anyone justify council building a third pool(At the estimated cost of between 1-2million). We shouldn't be spending money on wants, only what we absolutely need and can logically justify.

Many of those who I've spoken to want council to minimize the expenditure as much as possible on the Ballina and Alstonville upgrades i.e. do a smart upgrade and don't get anything that would be considered a want (as opposed to a need).

To spend money on an Ocean Pool is an absolute slap in the face to ratepayers, and if we can spend less on the Ballina and Alstonville upgrades, we have an obligation to do so and return that money to the ratepayers.

Furthermore, an Ocean Pool will result in $200,000 a year of ongoing maintenance which again, when I look at our priorities for our other facilities across the shire, it cannot be justified in the scheme of things.

For that reason, myself(Ben Smith), Paul Worth and Keith Johnson will be bringing a motion to council this August to ensure council has zero financial obligations to the idea of an ocean pool and that it remains that way.

It's a nice idea, but for now that's exactly what it should stay as.


Let's talk about quarries


Specifically, I think it's time to talk about the quarry at Gap road, Alstonville and the group lead by the Greens(Jeff Johnson, Effie Abblett) and Tyrone/Helen Mcgillick(also known as Helene de joux) that want to shut down a 100 year old business in Ballina Shire.

The gap road quarry has been in operation since 1908, with the Asphalt plant at the site running since 1978.  The current operation provides materials needed for our roads across the shire and has supplied material for the critical Pacific Highway upgrades that have been taking place.

The current Boral operation provides food on the table and employment for 50 people, making it a core employer for a location that has historically suffered from high unemployment.

The current application to operate the plant was approved at the ordinary council meeting 23rd February 1995.  The application at the time provided improved environmental outcomes, while still enabling a viable business to continue to grow.

In addition to this, the application DA 1995/127 fully complied with councils LEP and planning instruments at the time, importantly a significant buffer of 400m was established between the operations and the nearest residential development.  This buffer has been maintained and protected for the 21 years since(The group will claim this is untrue because there was one minor dwelling modification approx 3 years ago, but it isn't relevant and doesn't alter the point).

Fast forward to 2015, some 20 years since the buffer was put in place, and some 108 years since the quarries operation and a small group started up with the initial admirable intentions of ensuring the operators meet their requirements under the existing consent (which of course I had no issue with) to it very quickly going downhill and becoming a case of wanting to close down a completely legal industry in Alstonville(And importantly for the Greens,  a political tool for an election).

This is ultimately where I have to draw the line, the claims that are being made to justify shutting down the operations can only be described as clinically insane.

For those that have seen the "scientific material" provided by Green member, Effie Abblett, the claim in short is that the smell of hot Bitumen causes cancer.  The document circulated (I've uploaded to my website for those curious) claims "Bitumen contains polycylic aromatic hyrdocardons(PAH's) that are the most potent carcinogens known to science".

The document uses a level of spin that you wouldn't even see in a house of cards episode, let alone reality, to link Bitumen to cancer and on this basis believes this business should be shut down.

The reality is Bitumen (which also occurs naturally in the environment for the record) has been used by humans for approximately 8000 years.

We use Bitumen in our roads and construction every day, it's a critical piece of construction material.

There is no proven harm to our community to continue to do so, but if the quarry operations are shut down, there is the undeniable facts that closure will result in an increase in our carbon footprint (with a substantial increase in requirement to truck the material from Queensland) and a massive dent to our local economy with the loss of 50 jobs and the numerous small businesses that provide services to the operation.

No industry in our shire should be held to ransom and used as a political tool for advancement. All industries (including quarries) must follow the stringent rules and regulations, and assuming they comply they should have the right to grow and prosper within our local economy.




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