No connection between mural question and Nannas, Dowell says
UPDATE: 2.40pm: QUESTIONS over the legality of a large anti-coal seam gas artwork on a Ballina Road home are not part of a crackdown on anti-gas protests, Lismore Mayor Jenny Dowell says.
Cr Dowell, who has repeatedly expressed her own opposition to coal seam gas - said it was purely coincidence the Lismore Council Council was preparing to debate the roof-top banner on Jenny Leunig's home so soon after the election.
The discussion also comes amid a furore over the Knitting Nannas being told by police their weekly "knit-in" outside Lismore MP Thomas George's office was illegal and would have to be moved.
NSW Greens MLC Jeremy Buckingham has said he believes that confrontation, which happened yesterday afternoon, came after a member of the Nationals contacted police to complain.
A spokesman has conceded that belief is based on a report from ABC radio and he has not personally confirmed it.
Cr Dowell said there was no connection between the two issues.
"There may have been a desire by staff not to make this an issue in the lead up to the election, but it may have been natural timing," she said.
"I wouldn't draw and conclusions or parallels, although CSG is the common issue."
She added that it was staff who had brought the issue to a council meeting because they saw the issue of the sign as a "grey area" with possible political ramifications, therefore requiring a proper councillor debate.
The question over the legality of the banner was originally directed to staff by Lismore councillor Matt Scheibel in September last year, ruling out any post-election "connection".
Cr Dowell would not comment on the "Nanna ban" which has since drawn national media attention, but said Council was asked more than two years ago to ask the Nannas to move on from their weekly knitting spot outside Thomas George's office, but ruled not to do so because they were not blocking the pathway.
Comment has been sought from both the police, and Thomas George's office.
INITIAL REPORT: AN ICONIC anti-coal seam gas mural tied to the roof of a Lismore home is under threat after Lismore City Council found it breached NSW state planning laws.
Council will debate next week on the fate of Knitting Nanna Against Gas Jenny Leunig's famous sign, painted in 2012 by street artist Justin Livingston.
Staff recommended it be removed in a report to councillors, warning that ignoring the issue might create a bad precedent for similar compliance issues in the future.
They have also listed legal action against the property owner as an option to force its removal.
Ironically, the words on the mural reflect an almost identical message as the yellow anti-CSG signs Lismore City Council voted to mount on its borders.
In a letter to council Ms Leunig wrote the banner "represents my fight against an industry that our local council doesn't want either".
TOP LOCAL STORIES ONLINE TODAY
"I hope council can look on it as a work of art that is my gift to the 87% of our community who are against CSG," she said.
It immediately became a popular landmark, with mayor Jenny Dowell posting a photo on her active Facebook page. Yet late last year it was found to be in breach of state planning legislation after Lismore councillor Matthew Scheibel asked staff to investigate.
Under the council's Local Environment Plan, it is classified as an illegal "advertisement" in a residential zone.
Ms Leunig argued that there was huge public support for the artwork to remain.
Cr Dowell said the issue had captured the community's imagination.
"Some would argue this sign has become an iconic image of Lismore ... in some ways it's not even a protest sign because it's stating a fact," she said.
"It is open for councillors to take no further action, but I think there's also a need to have some consistency."