Mayor of Port Stephens Bruce MacKenzie has called on the NSW Government to show it has “courage of its convictions” by reinstating its first preference to merge Newcastle City Council and Lake Macquarie City Council and, in doing so, taking the Newcastle-Port Stephens merger proposal off the table.
“What the Government should do is trust its gut and push ahead with a merger of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, as it clearly always intended to do,” Mayor MacKenzie said.
The call comes after details emerged that the Government had earmarked the two cities for merger months before the outcome of the Fit For The Future review of councils across the state was announced.
According to reporting in the Newcastle Herald, the detail was provided to consultancy firm KPMG and subsequently included in a July 2015 report titled ‘Options Analysis: Local Reform’ – which reportedly included proposed mergers of Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, Maitland and Dungog, Gloucester and Great Lakes and Gosford and Wyong.
“The Government should show us it has courage of its convictions. It should do what the Port Stephens community has called for and knock the proposed merger of our Council with Newcastle on the head, once and for all,” Mr MacKenzie said.
“After all, 93% of our community is against it. 747 wrote submissions opposing it, and only 21 were in support. And there were 18-thousand petition signatures against the move.”
Mayor Mackenzie believes that the government should put Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Council merges back on the table for consideration.
As open and forth-coming as Mayor Mackenzie is, he told News Of The Area, “The proposed merger of Newcastle and Port Stephens was never a good fit. It was only ever a mechanism for the Government to sack Newcastle Council so it could install an administrator and progress its plans for the area.
“They didn’t have the courage to sack Newcastle Council outright. Instead they were prepared to sacrifice a good Council with $150 million in assets to achieve their aims. It’s a coward’s way out,” he said.
“I would also like to call the comments made by the independent MP for Lake Macquarie, Greg Piper, for what they are. Utterly ridiculous and hypocritical.
“He objects to the idea and says that Lake Macquarie would be ‘sacrificed to bolster Newcastle’. Yet he is happy to see another Council, with far less in common with Newcastle than his own area, sacrificed in the same fashion,” Mayor MacKenzie said.