Power plays everywhere as Premier drops into Byron
BY THE time NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian arrived at Enova Energy headquarters in Byron Bay on Tuesday to announce her government's $85 million clean energy program, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had survived (so far) a leadership challenge from Peter Dutton over energy policy, Nationals Parliamentary Secretary for Renewable Energy and Northern NSW Ben Franklin had announced he would seek to become the Nationals Candidate for the seat of Ballina and Peter Dutton had resigned from federal cabinet.
The Premiere was there to see a microgrid pilot project for Byron Bay Arts & Industry Estate being launched by Enova Energy in collaboration with electricity network operator, Essential Energy.
The microgrid aims to trial ways to reduce participant's electricity usage costs through sharing renewable energy that is locally generated, stored and distributed, while reducing carbon emissions.
The premier also passed around 40 anti-West Byron Development protesters and six uniformed police on her way in where she faced questions about the controversial Byron development, the lack of affordable housing in Byron Shire, the leadership challenge and the new Short Term Holiday Letting Policy.
The premier told the Byron Shire News that, "I wouldn't assume that it (West Byron) is going to happen, its still going through an independent process where the Joint Regional Planning Panel is looking at those issues (like affordable housing) so I wouldn't assume the current scale of the project is going to go through.”
"But once there is certainty around the size of whatever project occurs there, and similar to the community's views I would like to see it scaled back, then of course there are opportunities for social and affordable housing,” she said.
"But I am looking forward to working with Mr Franklin and the Mayor (of Byron Shire) about what opportunities there are to address affordability for locals in the shire because obviously the specific circumstances of having two million tourists come to the region does impact affordability.”
The Premier also had sympathy for local Approved Accommodation Accord and Byron Hinterland Collective members despairing at the loss of value in their businesses now they are competing against online platforms such as Airbnb and who are considering a class action against the State Government.
"We have to find the right balance...I do understand why they feel that way.
"That's why I am looking forward to what ongoing discussions Ben (Franklin) and the mayor could have with the minister about what specific and unique circumstances the Byron Community might
Regarding his tilt at the state seat of Ballina, Mr Franklin said he had "loved serving the Ballina and Byron Shires as a Member of the Legislative Council for the past three and a half years...and had been convinced (to stand) after repeated requests from local residents and community organisations.
"These people across our community feel that they have not received the passionate and dedicated representation they deserve since the last election,” he said.
"They are ...hungry to have a community voice inside government who is actually at the table when decisions are made, and can advocate every day on their behalf.”