Salamander Bay public inquiry into Port Stephens and Newcastle merger

NO SAVINGS: Port Stephens Council general manager Wayne Wallis told the inquiry there were no savings to be had from the proposed merger. Picture: Sam Norris
NO SAVINGS: Port Stephens Council general manager Wayne Wallis told the inquiry there were no savings to be had from the proposed merger. Picture: Sam Norris

RESIDENTS and Port Stephens Council were united against the proposed merger with Newcastle at a public inquiry on Thursday.

The council's general manager Wayne Wallis was the first in a series of more than 40 speakers at Salamander Bay who aired their frustration with the process.

"It had been a very well thought out process up until now," Mr Wallis said.

"At the very end the minister [Paul Toole] has rejected all logic."

Mr Wallis had said the council would challenge the proposed savings, prior to the meeting, and shared some of the key points with the delegate Ian Reynolds.  

"The KPMG model is flawed and inconsistently based on 2013 and 2014 data," Mr Wallis said.

"Our analysis has shown there is no savings and we've put this in our submission.

"There will actually be a $20 million cost to the community."

'Like communities' is one of the 11 criteria the boundaries commission will consider.

Mr Wallis acknowledged the traditional owners of the land and noted that the Port Stephens Council area mirrored the boundaries of the Worimi people.

Port Stephens extensive rural areas were also referenced - with 490 properties paying rural rates compared to 19 in Newcastle.

"Anyone would say that the difference between these communities couldn't be more striking," Mr Wallis said.

Tomaree Public School P&C president Roxanne Gwyn-Kabayama said she had brought her family to port Stephens for the opportunities it presented as both a beach and rural community.

Part of this was the area’s strong sporting culture despite a modest sized population.

“This is supported by Port Stephens Council’s investment in excellent sporting facilities,” she said.

“The families of Port Stephens can only see disadvantage in this.

“Families with young children are more sensitive to rising costs too.”

Ms Gwyn-Kabayama challenged the meeting panel to find someone who was in favour of the merger.

“I ask that you run a plebiscite to test the feelings of people in Port Stephens and Newcastle,” she said.

“In summary I ask you why we should be asked to prop up Newcastle.”

Port Stephens MP Kate Washington answered calls from the audience to talk.

“I reinforce the call here today for a poll or a plebiscite,” she said.

“I can offer no other reason for not doing it than they don’t want to know the result.”

Ian Reynolds is expected to announce a second Port Stephens inquiry as soon as Monday

While he said this would be at Shoal Bay there is a push afoot to hold it in Raymond Terrace.

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