Get to know your state candidates for Ballina
IT'S time to start thinking about who you'll vote to win the seat of Ballina this weekend at the NSW State election.
A lot of money has been thrown at the Ballina electorate, as it is considered by the major parities to be one of the marginal seats that could sway the election.
Many promises have been made in the lead up to the election this Saturday, March 23 but who will you vote for?
The Ballina state electorate encompasses Ballina and Byron Shires.
Greens - Tamara Smith (incumbent)
She won office in 2015, and was the first non-Nationals MP ever to win office in the traditionally conservative seat of Ballina. It was also the first rural seat ever won by the Greens. A solicitor with a background in social justice and energy law, she is also a trained teacher and has worked in Ballina for almost 15 years. She campaigned hard against coal-seam gas in 2015, when fear and anger over the threat of the industry was white hot. More locally, she campaigned to "save" TAFE, and get funding for the Ballina Indoor Sports Centre, which has since been achieved.
Labor - Asren Pugh
A local union organiser and environmental activist who is based in Byron Bay and has been involved in various union roles for the last 10 years. His current role is the regional organiser for the Public Service Association (PSA) and was previously the assistant secretary of the Australian Services Union. He will be campaigning for high quality local health services, maintaining funding to local public education, and a push for a "bed tax" in Byron Shire.
Nationals - Ben Franklin
The former state director of the Nationals attended elite Sydney private school Cranbrook and was elected to the Upper House in 2015 after pre-selection while a resident of North Shore Sydney. He then moved to Byron Bay and is currently the Parliamentary Secretary for Renewable Energy and Northern NSW.
Animal Justice - Cathy Blasonato
Experienced animal welfare and rights advocate Cathy Blasonato has been an animal advocate since her teenage years and has worked in animal welfare professionally and voluntarily since. As a vegan who has lived in the Ballina electorate for more than 25 years she says the time is right for animals to get greater representation in the NSW parliament. She is a strong believer in the link between the well-being of animals with our environment and health. She lists major challenges for the North Coast as habitat destruction, farm land being degraded, and farmed animals suffering from lack of fresh pastures and shade.
Sustainable Australia - Lisa McDermott
As an environmental activist, Lisa has a varied background as an artist, musician, horticulturist and has worked for environmental organisations Greening Australia and the Nature Conservation Council.Now retired to Ballina, Lisa has over the years become interested in the link between population pressures and environmental problems. As the Sustainable Australia Party candidate for Ballina, Lisa would like to see solutions to water shortages and incentives for doctors, teachers and essential services to stay in remote areas rather than people moving mainly to the coast.
Keep Sydney Open - James Wright
As Radio Broadcaster, film maker, futurist and father of three, James, 36, wants to see live music protected across the state. Living in Byron Shire for the past five years, James is opposing the recent government decisions to regulate large public events, fearing Bluesfest and Splendour in the Grass could be in the firing line in the future.