“WE only get one crack at this”.
That was the message from Port Mayor Bruce MacKenzie who, along with the vast majority of councillors, has vowed to “not go down without a fight” when faced with a potential amalgamation with Newcastle City Council.
And with that, The Examiner this week launches its Line in the Sand campaign in a bid to keep readers abreast of one of the biggest local government issues Port Stephens has faced in recent memory.
Councillors who attended an extraordinary meeting last week voted unanimously to spend $200,000 on a campaign to fight the proposal.
Councillors Geoff Dingle, who was in Tasmania, and John Morello were absent.
Cr Chris Doohan wore his boxing gloves to the meeting and told the Examiner this week that he was prepared to fight until the end.
“There’s nothing in this for Port Stephens,” he said.
It is understood consultancy firm Morrison Low will be tasked with preparing a submission to the NSW Government on behalf of Port Stephens Council as part of its bid to fight the merger.
And while a public inquiry by the state government into the proposal has been scheduled for February 4, at Horizons Golf Resort, Salamander Bay, the council has also organised it’s own rallies to follow on February 14. The first will be held at 10am at Tomaree Sports Complex and the second at Lakeside Sports Complex, Raymond Terrace at 1pm.
Each will be held outdoors with councillors in attendance.
“I want between five and seven thousand at each one,” Cr MacKenzie said.
“I’ll tell you now, if the people of Port Stephens want to retain ownership of their assets, then they need to show their faces at these meetings and make themselves heard.”
“We’ll put on a sausage sizzle and residents can register to speak – it can’t be mayhem.”
Port Stephens residents can also expect to receive a mail-out from the mayor in the coming week as part of a “community update” on the proposed merger.
The update highlights details of the public rallies and information on the potential changes to local government areas.