LAST THURSDAY October 13 saw a strong turn out for the ‘Meet the Candidates’ session at the new Jacob Marley Taphouse in Murwillumbah’s main street.
Sponsored and organised by the Tweed Valley Weekly, Creative Caldera, Murwillumbah District Business Chamber and Thrive 2484, the event attracted eighteen candidates and an enthusiastic crowd of around seventy audience members.
Participating candidates included: Pryce Allsop, Dion Andrews, Carolyn Byrne, Reece Byrnes, Chris Cherry, Ron Cooper, Mathuranatha Das, Jayne Henry, Dot Holdom, Suzy Hudson, Barry Longland, James McKenzie, Michael McNamara, James Owen, Warren Polglase, Kevin Skinner, Kaye Sharples and Toni Zuschke.
The evening was hosted by moderator Marlena Basser who expertly fielded a range of challenging questions and a variety of responses from the diverse candidates.
The evening started by asking candidates to share their motivation for standing for council and their vision for a thriving Murwillumbah and 2484, moving through themes including: creative industry development, support for new businesses, implementation of the rural villages strategy, the Rural Land Strategy, environmental impacts, social welfare concerns, affordable housing, rising rates, community consultation and engagement, council effectiveness and the railway line.
With a particular focus on Murwillumbah and the 2484, candidates identified the need to support creative industries activation, tourism development and nurturing of small business. Water security was also identified as a key environmental issue with most candidates supporting the raising of the Clarrie Hall dam and others calling for an independent review.
It was also recognised that while it is extremely important that we have diversity on our council there has been much frustration at the past council’s political machinations and polarisation preventing effective collaboration, innovation and community consultation.
This gave rise to some warmly received suggestions to firstly hold a two day workshop with the new council to establish a shared vision for the community and some training in effective decision making practices, followed by quarterly community forums like the ‘meet the candidates’ session where councillors can be accountable to their community members.
While all the candidates contributed to the robust conversation, the surprising candidate who elicited the most positive reactions from the audience on the night was the ungrouped independent Mathuranatha Das.
It was definitely an informative, dynamic and courageous exchange that took place and those who attended reported coming away feeling far more confident with who they would vote for at the coming election.