BALLINA CANDIDATES: Greens' Tamara Smith, MC Chris Hanley, Labor's Asren Pugh and Nationals' Ben Franklin
BALLINA CANDIDATES: Greens' Tamara Smith, MC Chris Hanley, Labor's Asren Pugh and Nationals' Ben Franklin Christian Morrow

Robust discussion but love reigns supreme for Ballina

BYRON Shire is sure to be the winner at the March 23 state election if the three candidates vying for the seat are to be believed.

Sitting Greens Member Tamara Smith, Labor's Asren Pugh and Nationals Ben Franklin were part of a robust exchange at the Meet The Candidates Event organised by the Sourdough Group at the Macadamia Castle in Knockrow.

All the candidates expressed their love for this "unique” part of the world and their absolute commitment to go into battle for the Ballina electorate in the Macquarie Street Bear Pit, should they win.

A crowd of around 80 were on hand and MC Chris Hanley said he was pleased the debate had been so forthright.

All the candidates agreed that the lack of affordable long term housing was a big problem in the shire and there needed to be greater regulation of the Short Term Holiday Letting. None of them believed that tightening up rules around STHL would have an adverse impact on the Shire's thriving tourist economy. And all the candidates agreed their was a need for action on climate change and use of renewables.

The real discussion got down to which candidate believed they could best deliver for the community.

Ms Smith said the fact that Ballina was seen as a "winnable” marginal seat held by the Greens meant that it had, and would continue to attract attention and funding from both major political parties in an attempt to win the seat as their own.

She believes the community's priority was for, "sustainable growth into the future that is not based on pork barrelling or the whim of the government of the day,” she said.

She believes her party's impeccable credentials when it comes to the environment and social justice and equity meant the Green's ideals aligned well with the electorate's aspirations.

"I would urge everyone to look at the policies of the Greens and make their decisions based on the policy not on personality. Have a look at what we stand for and how we vote in the parliament because you can bank on that.”

Mr Pugh said he believes Labor has a real chance of winning the seat and asked the audience for a chance to make a difference for Ballina from within a Daley Labor government, "getting in the faces” of Macquarie street power brokers.

"I grew up here, I went to Byron Bay High School, I love this place, I am raising my kids here and I am passionate about Public Education. I want to get down to Sydney and get in their faces because I don't think we have got our fair share, I don't think the views and beliefs of our community are particularly well listened to down in Sydney and they haven't been for decades.

Mr Franklin said it was about being there for the community, "Its about turning up,” and he cited the $9.5 million that was now forthcoming for the Byron CBD Bypass as evidence of his ability to advocate effectively for Ballina within government.

"Its about supporting local jobs and industry and providing a future not only for our kids but the whole region and protecting what makes this region special not only the environment but also the community's deep sense of commitment and idealism. It's also about showing the electorate they can trust in their elected representatives.”

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