Evans Head's defection to Ballina
HUNDREDS of Evans Head residents have officially turned their back on Richmond Valley Council (RVC) and asked to become part of the Ballina Shire.
Dr Richard Gates has been getting residents to sign a petition for almost 12 months now, and he says he has collected well over 750 signatures – ‘three times the amount required by the Department of Local Government’.
He attended Ballina Shire Council’s meeting last week to ask councillors to support a boundary adjustment.
Mayor Phillip Silver asked staff to prepare a report on the issue.
“I don’t think it would be appropriate to say no at this point,” he said.
But Cr Peter Moore had a different opinion.
“I am a bit perplexed about this,” he said.
“I am quite sceptical and that’s just me being brutally honest.
“If there’s something that can be worked though, then fine, but I would really need to be convinced that this would be a good idea.
“I think we’ve got enough to worry about in the Ballina Shire without taking on Evans Head as well.”
Dr Gates first raised the possibility of the Lower River merging with the Ballina Shire in July last year, after Richmond Valley Council resolved to stick with its unified rating structure.
At the time he argued the system was unjust and unfair.
“There are plenty of positives why Ballina should look into an amalgamation,” Dr Gates said.
“Ballina would get all the very attractive areas that Evans Head has to offer – it would be great for tourism.
“There’s been a long term relationship between the people of Evans and the people of Ballina. There’s a social connection.
“I know that some people think we would be bringing a financial burden ... but this is part of the bigger, long term picture for the Northern Rivers.”
Richmond Valley Council Mayor Col Sullivan said he was surprised the issue was still being discussed.
“I think many people in that community have now resolved that they would be better off staying in the RVC area,” he said.
“But obviously Dr Gates wants to go down that path (of amalgamating with Ballina Shire Council).
“I will be very interested to see what report Ballina Shire Council comes back with.”
Cr Sullivan admitted there wasn’t much the council could do at this stage. But he said he would be ‘disappointed’ if Evans Head was lost to Ballina.
“Evans Head is part of an overall balance of Richmond Valley Council,” he said.
“It’s the jewel in our crown.
“We don’t want it to lose it only for it to become just another beach resort.
“I don’t think the great majority of people in Evans Head are unhappy with the council.
“A petition doesn’t mean anything.”
Cr Sullivan said boundary changes took a long time and would need to involve the Local Government Boundaries Commission and also the Minister for Local Government.