MORE than 13,500 people have signed a petition that challenges the state government to rethink the proposed Port Stephens-Newcastle council merger.
State parliament procedure says that a matter will be debated in the Legislative Assembly if it has 10,000 signatures or more.
There’s every indication Port Stephens residents will back their words with action and attend the Macquarie Street chambers when it comes up for discussion.
“I’m quite confident we’ll get close to 16,000 signatures before we have to table it,” Mayor Bruce MacKenzie said.
“Everywhere I go, people say, ‘please put on buses, we want to be there’.”
The petition was launched as part of a campaign to address the proposed merger announced a week before Christmas. A survey of 2000-plus people has found 93 per cent oppose it.
“This petition is a celebration of our community working together,” Deputy Mayor Chris Doohan said.
“We say thank you to the people who helped door knock in places like Medowie, the businesses who put up posters in their windows, and the residents who turned up at our rallies.”
The community and council have spent countless hours in recent weeks in response to the merger proposal. More than 60 people addressed the Delegate Ian Reynolds between the Salamander and Shoal Bay inquiries.
“This petition is our big chance to make our voice heard on the floor of the house when all of the submissions stop with the Delegate,” Cr Paul Le Mottee said.
Cr Peter Kafer spoke at the Shoal Bay inquiry where he observed a minute’s silence for the death of local government.
“We the community of NSW and Port Stephens have been left in a vacuum, a void, treated with utter contempt, by a government not interested in democracy or transparency, but autocracy,” he said.
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington hopes to have the matter debated before the Easter break.
“This is our best opportunity to resist the proposed merger and to bring it to Premier Mike Baird’s doorstep,” she said.
“He’s been able to ignore us until now because we’re not right in front of him.”