It was standing room only at last week’s Public Enquiry concerning the proposed merger of Great Lakes, Gloucester and Taree Councils held at Bulahdelah Bowling Club.
With over one hundred Myall Coast residents turning out to meet with Local Governments delegate Dr Ian Tiley, 24 speakers were registered to voice their opinions during the two hour session.
All but two speakers presented arguments against the merger, expressing their preference for Great Lakes Council to stand alone.
Issues raised included rate rises, negative impact on projects in the Great Lakes area and insufficient time to evaluate the long-term impact of the merger.
Concerns over the costs of other councils being passed onto Great Lakes rate payers were also raised.
North Arm Cove Residents Association President Doug Kohlhoff said the merger would be less than helpful.
“There has been no analysis of the costs involved and drainage and roadworks will be scrapped for Gloucester and Taree project backlogs,” he said.
“With the new council, there will be a 66% loss in council attention.”
Myall Coast Chamber of Commerce Vice-President Graham Halley also spoke against the proposed merger stating “local voices will be falling on deaf ears under a mega-council.”
Bulahdelah Chamber of Commerce Vice-President Kevin Carter voiced his objection as “Great Lakes has a great management culture” but a merged council would “use rates for other projects, leaving us with nothing”.
Two residents spoke in favour of the proposal, saying the merger would allow for shared resources between councils.
Nine Great Lakes Councillors attended the enquiry with Deputy Mayor Len Roberts presenting his views to Dr Tiley.
“If this is going to happen, we need a blueprint to make it possible,” Councillor Roberts said.
“We were found fit for the future, but with a merger, we will have everything taken away.”
Public Enquires were also held in Forster, Taree and Gloucester.
It is reported 40 people spoke in Forster with poor finances and infrastructure backlog recurring topics.
The 24 speakers in Taree raised common issues of broken funding models, lack of information and loss of representation whilst there were mixed opinions from 21 speakers in Gloucester.
Great Lakes had the largest turnout with almost 400 residents attending between Bulahdelah and Forster, whilst Gloucester attracted 75 attendees with 98 in Taree.
Although unable to comment on the views presented, Dr Tiley said there was great community presence at Bulahdelah’s meeting showing people were very concerned.
“It was at my insistence that Bulahdelah be included as a venue for the hearings,” Dr Tiley said.
“And as you can see by the turnout, it was a good decision.”
Dr Tiley now has the task of preparing a report on the merger for the Minister of Local Government who will make a final decision by mid-year.