The Byron Independents: Who We Are and What We Stand For
Working together to enrich community and environment
2021 is a year unlike any other – for the world, for Australia and certainly for the Byron Shire.
There is no doubt it is a time of significant change for Byron. Now is not the time to take chances. The Shire needs experienced leadership to navigate the challenges we face.
Under Mayor Michael Lyon, the Council has become a much more stable, professional outfit. One with established processes and clear administrative discipline. An organisation that embraces both the inspirational and practical elements of its role.
Importantly, this rejuvenation has not gone unnoticed, with trust and respect being rebuilt with all levels of government. This has seen a significant increase in the financial support our community receives – a critical thing for a small Shire like ours.
Our team is passionate about building on this progress and using the momentum we have gained to tackle even bigger issues. We are guided by our shared values and genuine compassion for our fellow residents. It is important to celebrate and support all that makes this region – and our community – the unique, thriving place it is.
Representing all Byron Residents
We are committed to being the voice of all of the people of Byron – not just those that support our ideas. We believe we are stronger together and that it’s our diversity which makes this such a great place to live.
We will continue to consult widely to make sure our decisions reflect the views of the people we represent. We will remain open to new ideas and accessible to all members of the community. Critically, we aim to listen – really listen – to the views shared with us and do our best to ensure they get properly considered and where possible and appropriate, implemented.
We also want to foster a positive sense of debate within our community. To create an environment where everyone feels comfortable and empowered to express their opinions without fear of abuse or undue criticism. A place where we can respectfully disagree and constructively agitate for change when we believe it is required.
The Byron Independents team
Our team reflects the great diversity of experience and thought present here in the Byron Shire. Each member brings their unique background and significant achievements in their respective fields but we are all united by our shared ideals and a desire to see Byron empower and protect its people and environment.
Our team is headed by the current Mayor of Byron Shire, Michael Lyon. Before becoming a Councillor 5 years ago, Michael specialised in turning around small businesses that were struggling. His significant experience (both on Council and in business), strong focus on sound financial management, and clear record of creating positive change, means he is uniquely placed to lead Council through its next phase.
Sama Balson is an active and passionate advocate for diversity, equality, and social justice. She has over 20 years of experience in the film and performing arts industry, and has programmed a wide range of events, festivals, and community forums. She is also the founder of the Women’s Village Collective, a not-for-profit organisation committed to tackling Byron’s housing crisis.
Peter Westheimer served as a Byron Shire Councillor from 2004 to 2008, a term which included an 18-month stint as Deputy Mayor. This experience, combined with his diverse professional background, has enabled him to develop a valuable set of skills and expertise. In particular, he offers crucial insight into biodiversity, environmental restoration, climate change adaptation and the creative industries.
Jeanette Martin is also an experienced local Councillor, having served the Byron Shire since 2016. She is the proud Mum of 6 (now adult) children and has 22 years of experience in the community development sector. She is a strong believer in the power of community and an expert in bringing together the skills and experience to get things done.
Our Vision for a Better Byron
While we celebrate everything that makes the Byron Shire great, we know there are always ways we can do better. If elected, we will be committed to bringing energy and attention to these five focus areas.
We believe having access to stable and affordable accommodation is a right, not a privilege. We are committed to addressing the shortage of suitable long-term housing and will continue to actively lobby for tighter restrictions on short-term rental accommodation.
We are committed to making sure our key workers and most vulnerable community members are looked after, not left behind. We support the expansion of the Community Land Trust to help secure the long-term affordability of housing in the Shire. We will continue challenging what housing solutions for those in insecure accommodation could look like in the short-term.
We also understand the importance of fostering respectful engagement with potential developers, rather than fighting every proposal. By working together, we believe we can achieve better outcomes that benefit the whole community and protect the delicate balance of our rural setting.
Living Our Green Ideals
We want to see our Shire become a true world leader in environmental management and biodiversity protection and enhancement. We believe we can be an inspirational example of what an informed community committed to protection and regeneration can do.
We are passionate about undoing the damage caused by years of adhering to traditional farming methods. We will continue to embrace regenerative agriculture and increase local resilience by diversifying our food production.
A key focus will be to return our creeks and waterways to the thriving environments they once were.
Connecting Our Communities
We believe being able to easily get around is critical to supporting our sense of community, particularly as our population grows.
We want to reduce our reliance on cars as the primary mode of transport and encourage walking and cycling. As part of this, we’re committed to closing the gaps in our pathways and cycleways and making it easier to move around our Shire.
We will also work with community groups to secure the additional funding required to establish extra cycleways. This is in addition to continuing investigation into the potential multi-use of the rail-corridor for Rail, Trail, or a combination of both.
Fostering Local Arts and Culture
We believe a vibrant arts scene is critical to both the cultural and economic success of the Shire. We want to encourage the creativity of our community through the establishment of community hubs, providing affordable studio and exhibition spaces. We will also actively engage with local creators and community groups to identify opportunities to make art more visible in our public spaces.
Sound Financial Management
As is part of life, big dreams and ideas cannot become reality without a financial strategy to match. In the past, this has been an issue for Byron Shire but with the strong leadership, financial knowledge and business sense of Michael Lyon and others on Council, things have turned around. With continued sound financial management, the future of Byron looks bright – plans can not only be made, but fulfilled to the high standard our shire deserves.
Achieving Valuable, Lasting Change
Having a grand vision is great but being able to bring it to life is a very different prospect.
To enact real change, you need to have a deep practical understanding of the social and political environment in which you are operating. You also need to be able to consult widely, galvanise support, and truly listen to points of opposition and concern and respond accordingly.
Our team has proven it has the experience to succeed – on Council, in business, and in life. We have a clear record of delivering on our commitments and persisting until the job is done. Further, we have shown that we can adapt as priorities shift and always remain open to alternative points of view.
We believe a stronger, more resilient Shire is within our reach. We cannot do this by ourselves – we need your help. Every member of this community has a part to play in creating the fabric of Byron. Imagine what can be achieved if we joined together as one. Together we can build a Byron that is the best version of itself, dynamic, inclusive and a true representation of environmental sustainability.