DISMAY AT MERGER
I WRITE to express my alarm and horror, on behalf of the people of the Port Stephens LGA, at the proposal to merge Port Stephens Council with Newcastle City Council.
I moved my family to Port Stephens in 1985 and was privileged to serve the community from 1987 – 1995 and 1999 to 2008 as a councillor. I served two terms as Deputy Shire President and three-and-a-half years as Mayor over that period. I won the NSW seat of Port Stephens for the Liberal Party (a first) in 2007 and retained the seat in 2011, so I think I can claim to have spent many years in public service working in the interests of Port Stephens.
The reasons for vehemently opposing this merger are many.
- In the recent IPART report, Port Stephens was declared “Fit for the Future”, Newcastle wasn’t.
- Newcastle Council has been dysfunctional for years – a brief period of sanity and responsibility reigned under the leadership of Lord Mayor Jeff McCloy (2012 to 2014) and his GM Ken Goldthorpe, who was sacked by the Council recently.
- Port Stephens Council has been financially responsible for many years. Council’s “Salamander Estate” was a commercial success story, providing millions of dollars in profits – profits that were reinvested for the future or spent on Community facilities. Port Stephens encourages good development, to provide an environment into which we can “Live, Work & Play”. Newcastle does not. Port Stephens manages its budget – NCC in my opinion, cannot spell budget.
- There are no “communities of interest” shared between Newcastle and Port Stephens. Newcastle is a nearly fully developed, high density city – Port Stephens is a developing rural community with some town centres and villages.
- Should a merger proceed, Port Stephens rate-payers, with 30 per cent of the combined population, would get 30 per cent of the representation but NONE of the funding.
- With careful management over many years, Newcastle Airport has been a very successful partnership between the two councils and a real financial generator to the Lower Hunter. The existing ratepayers of Port Stephens, have a valid reason to expect that the proceeds of any profits by or sale of Newcastle Airport will be expended for Port Stephens community infrastructure. A $100m potential sale of Newcastle Airport will only be used to prop up Newcastle. Were (say) Sydney Airport Corporation to purchase Newcastle Airport, it could be beneficial to downgrade Newcastle Airport to force more flights to use Mascot (with higher landing fees).
The infusion of funds from Port Stephens will be great for the people of Newcastle in the short term (until the money runs out).
It will be disastrous for the residents of Port Stephens – reduced services, higher rates, no representation – Property developers will avoid Port Stephens if they have to deal with anti-development Newcastle planners. I call on them to fight this proposed merger, tooth and nail.
We must ensure that the voice of the Port Stephens community, is heard loud and clear by the NSW Local Government Boundaries Commission when they commence an inquiry into this proposed merger.
MERGER A TRAGEDY
THE tragedy of the recommended council amalgamation will see a progressive council swept away.
The two or three representatives from Port Stephens will be voted down by the Labor / Green alliance in Newcastle. Development (and prosperity) will cease. It will all be about rare plants, frogs in logs and gumnuts.
RIP PSSC. You used to be a great place to live.