PORT Stephens residents can breathe a sigh of relief with news this week that the proposed Port Stephens Council merger is officially off the table.
Twenty Sydney councils did not escape their proposed mergers, with five more set to be decided upon by the courts, but the Berejiklian Government has relented on regional parts of the state and abandoned their proposed amalgamations.
The six pending regional council mergers not proceeding including the mergers of Wollongong and Shellharbour councils, and Newcastle and Port Stephens councils.
Premier Berejiklian has followed through on her promise of “I will fix this”, when she chaired her first cabinet meeting as Premier, and signalled that she would reconsider the policy.
A hard battle has been fought by the people of Port Stephens, who have been active and vocal from the first announcement by the Baird Government that a merger with Newcastle Council would take place.
Port Stephens Deputy Mayor, Chris Doohan, told News Of The Area “A heartfelt thank you to the people of Port Stephens that stood up and helped convince the Government that this was a bad decision”,
“Port Stephens residents should now take the chance to pop a cork or cheers a beer with each other and congratulate themselves on a very well battled victory.”
“It is twelve months to the day that the residents of Port Stephens braved the stifling heat and celebrated Valentine’s Day at two public rallies to show their resistance to this merger proposal, and today they have been rewarded for that effort ,” he said.
Meryl Swanson, Member for Paterson, told News Of The Area “I’m glad the voice of our community has been listened to and these mergers are finally off the table.”
Shadow Minister for the Hunter and Port Stephens MP, Kate Washington, has welcomed the announcement that Hunter Councils will not be forced to merge.
“I thank the many residents who have committed time and energy to fighting the proposed forced mergers in the Hunter.” “It’s just so disappointing that the NSW government has held a gun to our community’s head for so long, and all for nothing.”
“The Hunter Councils have endured over 12 months of uncertainty which has delayed major projects, cancelled elections and seen long serving staff leave the organisations.” she said.
Chris Doohan expressed his gratitude to the Mayor, fellow Councillors and the management and staff of Port Stephens Council and local government representatives for their resilience and positive attitude through these stressful times as we waited for the decision to be made on our council’s future.
“What doesn’t hurt you makes you stronger, and stronger we are.”
“Now we can fully resume our focus on the betterment of Port Stephens.” he said.
It has been announced that councils and residents are now likely to go to the polls on the 9 September this year.
By Rachael VAUGHAN