A NEW-LOOK Port Stephens Council could encompass Tea Gardens-Hawks Nest to the north, Stockton to the south and a part of Dungog to the west, according to Mayor Bruce MacKenzie.
The mayor said he would welcome discussion on council mergers, which he believed was a topic that needed to be addressed sooner rather than later.
"Let me say first and foremost that Port Stephens is the number one council in the Hunter and previous discussions have suggested we can stand alone," he said.
"However, we cannot bury our heads in the sand and I believe the [department of local government] has been very slow to move on this.
"Our council is in very good shape and there are some councils out there doing it tough, but I would be happy to explore a merger which took in Tea Gardens from the Great Lakes, Stockton from Newcastle and a part of Dungog."
Fellow Port councillor John Nell said the debate was timely after the state government had released its Fit for the Future plan, which promises financial incentives to neighbouring councils considering a merger.
"I do not want to see Port Stephens become the next takeover target in a following round of voluntary council amalgamations in six to eight years' time," Cr Nell said.
Cr Geoff Dingle said a merger with Maitland and/or Dungog were options worth exploring.
"I attended Maitland gallery to view the Archibald collection last week and marvelled at the great job they have done rebuilding the gallery," Cr Dingle said.
"Also, the development taking place around East Maitland is booming, with young home owners lining up. Here in Port Stephens land is becoming environmentally sensitive with aircraft noise restrictions and issues like the contaminated drainage water in Medowie."
Great Lakes deputy mayor Cr Len Roberts said while Great Lakes and Port Stephens enjoyed a strong relationship, [Great Lakes] were currently in talks with Gloucester Council.