Dungog Shire Community Group to host Port Stephens Council merger proposal meetings

A BREAKAWAY group of Dungog residents, despondent with its council, will meet with Port Stephens representatives next week.

Only last week Dungog Shire Council again resolved to stand alone which prompted a band of residents, under the Dungog Shire Community Group banner, to organise two meetings.

COUNTRY COUSINS: Port Stephens Council has prepared a report on a potential Dungog merger and will speak at two community information sessions after Easter.

COUNTRY COUSINS: Port Stephens Council has prepared a report on a potential Dungog merger and will speak at two community information sessions after Easter.

Guest speakers are expected to include Port Stephens general manager Wayne Wallis and the mayor, Cr Bruce MacKenzie.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt Port Stephens is a better partner than Maitland,” meeting organiser Lisa Connors said.

“When you look at the people in Dungog and the people in Port Stephens there’s a lot more in common than Maitland.”

Mrs Connors said it was hard to know how many people would attend the meetings next Wednesday and Thursday but she had no doubt Port Stephens was the best option.

“A large part of the community here is prepared to merger with Port Stephens over Maitland which is more of a city,” she said.

“And when you look at Port Stephens Council’s finances they’ve got the capacity to handle this.”

Cr MacKenzie and Mr Wallis briefed Dungog Shire councillors on a merger proposal on March 8. After that briefing the councillors voted 7-2 on a resolution that at its core would have it stand alone.

“Dungog is a typical example of why the government is looking at making mergers – they need help,” Cr MacKenzie said.

“And Port Stephens is a better partner than Maitland.”

The first of the two public meetings will take place at the CWA Rooms, Dungog, from 5.30pm on March 30. The second is scheduled for 6.30pm at the Gresford School of Arts Hall.

“I think [Dungog] rate payers would be pleasantly surprised with our rates and service levels,” Cr MacKenzie said.

“If I am somehow made mayor again I will treat them like family.”

The mayor of Dungog, Cr Harold Johnston, said it was too soon to consider a Port Stephens merger when the Newcastle amalgamation was still on the table.