Ballina councillor Ben Smith took exception to Mayor David Wright's mayoral minute at the August council meeting.
Ballina councillor Ben Smith took exception to Mayor David Wright's mayoral minute at the August council meeting. Contributed

'I haven’t seen anything like it, I was quite shocked'

IT WAS a simple item only meant to take five minutes, but Ballina councillors went into a heated argument about helium balloons at this week's meeting.

Council approved a mayoral minute raised by Mayor David Wright to write to the relevant state and federal ministers to request a review of regulations on the sale and use of helium and gases other lighter than air, unless for scientific and non-environmentally detrimental commercial purposes, especially relating to balloons.

The motion also requested that council take action to educate the community on the harm of helium balloon releases, and to request a report on a proposal to include a ban on the use of gas filled balloons on land under its control.

Mayor Wright proposed the minute after receiving a request from a lobbying organisation, worried about the environmental damage helium balloons impose in marine and wildlife after released.

Cr Ben Smith disagreed with the mayor's minute.

"We are in the middle of a pandemic, we are dealing with the border closure, and apparently it's important enough to have a mayoral minute about helium balloons, I haven't seen anything like it, I was quite shocked," he said.

"I've never in my time in council have anyone write to me about this issue.

"I just think it's a joke.

"Priorities are just all over the shop. I just think it's trivial"

Cr Phillip Meehan said during the debate that Mayor's Wright minute was 'tokenistic'.

"(The release of helium balloons for funerals or other ceremonies) do not occur on our shire, it's not a problem in our community," he said.

"The only helium balloons I have seen in our community are for birthday parties and they stay indoors.

"We should be looking at educating our own community. Writing a letter to ministers will go nowhere. It's the most tokenistic thing we can do with this matter."

 

Ballina Shire Council's meeting was streamed live online from the council's website.
Ballina Shire Council's meeting was streamed live online from the council's website.

 

Cr Nathan Willis said helium should only be used for medical reasons.

"To use it any other way is reckless, irresponsible," he added.

Cr Sharon Cadwallader wanted to see a full ban of helium balloons.

"I can assure you that there ae helium balloon releases at functions in our shire, particularly funeral. Some people still do it" she said.

Ms Cadwallader explained it's illegal in NSW to release more than 20 balloons filled with the gas.

At this point Mayor Wright said "I thought this would take two minutes, I was wrong."


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