PATERSON MP Bob Baldwin has opened fire on his Liberal counterparts in Macquarie Street who continue to push the barrow for a merger between Port Stephens and Newcastle councils.
In a federal parliament speech on Monday night Mr Baldwin praised Port Stephens Council but condemned Newcastle as a “basket case”.
Mr Baldwin said the proposal “defied logic” and urged the community to make a submission to the council boundary review before deadline on Sunday.
“On this issue I speak with more understanding than most, as I served on Port Stephens Council from 1999 to 2004,” he said.
“Let me make it abundantly clear from the outset that I am against this merger. More importantly, my community is against this merger.”
Mr Baldwin urged the Baird government to return some balance to the process.
“Port Stephens Council, like all councils, supports the government's direction in strengthening local government based on logic, but this proposal seems to defy logic,” he said.
“Port Stephens Council has been declared fit for the future by the NSW government. It has met each and every benchmark, whether it is financial, of scale and capacity requirement or operating at a healthy surplus.
“That is because Port Stephens Council, over the decades, has built very strong commercial investments and alternative revenue streams, which keeps the rating base very affordable.
“That is in stark contrast to Newcastle council, which has been a financial basket case.”
But he stopped short of accusing Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes for a financial backslide in praise of Jeff McCloy.
“When former Mayor Jeff McCloy was elected he turned it around, he got it on the pathway to financial resurrection, but after he resigned new Labor Mayor Nuatali Nelmes seems to have gone back to the future with expenditure and wanting a rating base increase,” he said.
Mr Baldwin raised the issues of a decreased lack of representation for Port Stephens residents if the merger went ahead, along with a threat of increased rates.
“Port Stephens Council delivers 51 different services and provides over 500 local jobs through that. It strives to provide the best effort for its community, and that is reflected in the benchmark surveys that come back to council. It has a satisfaction rate in excess of 80 per cent,” he said.
“Port Stephens Council as a standalone council is more efficient and a very successful entity.
“This merger proposal is supposed to be based on economic modelling, yet there has been an independent review of the NSW government's own modelling, which shows that it is fundamentally flawed. It is fundamentally flawed because it is inconsistent and based on outdated data from 2014. It does not even adhere to the NSW government's own treasury guidelines; it is using nominal values and not present values.”
Mr Baldwin said he rejected the proposal and asked his constituents to do the same.