Tomaree Ratepayers question Port Stephens' Fit for the Future status

The merger proposal

The merger proposal

TOMAREE Ratepayers and Residents Association fears there's financially difficult times ahead for Port Stephens Council even if it escapes the proposed merger with Newcastle.

While the council dismissed such fears those views and many others will be considered as part of the state government’s merger review process.

The government’s delegate Ian Reynolds will begin to make his report to the Boundaries Commission since the final public inquiry wound up on Wednesday night.

TRRA vice president Dick Appleby said recent events had cast doubt over two of the council's income streams and threaten its Fit for the Future status. He referred to the financial difficulty of Thou Walla and Treescapes holiday parks.

Thou Walla made just $27,000 in the past year which was well short of a $440,000 projected profit while Treescapes lost $29,000.

On top of this the Office of Environment and Herritage last week said it could not support the Cabbage Tree Road sand mine that was expected to earn the council $20 million in 15 years. 

NOT SATISFIED: Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association vice president Dick Appleby doubts Port Stephens Council is financially fit. Picture: Ellie-Maree Watts

NOT SATISFIED: Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association vice president Dick Appleby doubts Port Stephens Council is financially fit. Picture: Ellie-Maree Watts

"With that Fit for the Future classification we think it was based on some pretty big assumptions," Mr Appleby said.

That's not to say Mr Appleby supports the Newcastle merger either.

"The state government's bungled the whole thing," he said.

"What's behind them ignoring the iPART report? They need to go back to the start and fix the dodgy assumptions." 

Port Stephens Council corporate services group manager Carmel Foster said the Fit for the Future calculatiions were based on data from the "very conservative" Long Term Financial Plan which "does not include any profits from land development activities".

"Therefore any land sales of developed or undeveloped land, including the projected profits from sand extraction activities, are not included in the LTFP. The development of land or any associated activities are highly dependent on market conditions and cannot be accurately determined,” she said.

Nor did  the council factor in a $3.7 million profit from the Tarrant Road subdivision. Ms Foster also defended the Thou Walla's losses that were affected by April 2015 storm that caused extensive damage. Nor was she worried bout Treescape's "minimal" loss. "The revenue for these two parks are included in the LTFP and are based on comprehensive business plans.”

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