FEDERAL Liberal candidate for the seat of Paterson, Karen Howard, has called on the NSW State Government to re-evaluate the merger between Port Stephens Council with Newcastle Council.
In a statement released by Ms Howard, she said, “Until I spoke out on behalf of the people of Port Stephens, on 11 May, the proposed merger was almost guaranteed to go ahead.”
She claims the government has now undertaken a community consultation process to canvas the views of a Port Stephens/Dungog merger and cites ‘a plethora of joint tourism opportunities’ as one of the many advantages.
Ms Howard said, “I met with the Port Stephens Council General Manager, who made it abundantly clear to me that many residents and businesses within the Port Stephens local government boundaries could be significantly and negatively impacted by the proposed merger with Newcastle.
“Port Stephens Council have taken a mature and sensible approach in considering the position of the State Government and the Premier’s goals in the process to research and develop an alternative option to the Minister’s merger proposal,” said Ms Howard.
“I applaud Port Stephens Council for unanimously resolving to formally initiate a merger with Dungog Shire Council if its preference to stand alone in not an option under the State Government’s local government reforms.”
“I stand shoulder to shoulder with the Port Stephens community on this issue,” she said.
State Member for Port Stephens, Kate Washington, agrees with the alternate suggestion for a Port Stephens/Dungog solution, should the stand alone option be rejected.
She said, “Everyone remains of the view that Port Stephens should be allowed to stand alone.”
“If forced to merge, the general view is that Dungog is the better fit.”
She goes further to say, “Unfortunately, there is a sense of inevitability that our community wishes will again be ignored and that ultimately, we will be forced to merge with Newcastle Council.”
“I fear that we are all wasting our time – yet again – engaging in a sham consultation process.”
Karen Howard suggests that residents and groups wishing to make a submission on the merger, should do so by 5pm Sunday 26 June, via www.strongercouncils.nsw.gov.au
By Jenny BAXTER