Port Stephens Council addresses Dungog, Gresford meetings on merger

CAPTIVE AUDIENCE: Dungog residents listen to Port Stephens Council general manager Wayne Wallis. Picture: Janelle O'Neill
CAPTIVE AUDIENCE: Dungog residents listen to Port Stephens Council general manager Wayne Wallis. Picture: Janelle O'Neill

COMMUNITY meetings at Dungog and Gresford have found strong support for a Port Stephens Council merger.

About 85 people attended a Dungog meeting to hear Port Stephens Council general manager Wayne Wallis speak about the challenges and expected benefits of such a merger, on March 30.

The second meeting at Gresford drew almost the same numbers and residents there were equally supportive.

Mr Wallis admitted this was somewhat of a surprise.

“I would say we were received equally well by Dungog and Gresford,” he said.

“We did expect a different view from the Paterson and Allyn valleys, where we thought their community of interest would be Maitland, but that wasn’t the case.”

Various merger proposals are under state government review. This includes the maligned Port Stephens-Newcastle option.

Consequently, Port Stephens Council tasked consultants Morrison Low to prepare a Dungog proposal for the Boundaries Commission to consider. At the same time the Office of Local Government has been directed to review a Dungog-Maitland proposal.

Mr Wallis said the commentary from people at the Dungog and Gresford meetings was encouraging. He said one man, who was initially thought Maitland was Dungog’s best fit, now favoured Port Stephens.

“If there is to be a merger then the merger delegate must consider the attitude of the communities in question,” Mr Wallis said.

“It helps a great dealt that the Dungog community does support this.”

The Dungog Shire Residents Group and Clarence Town Progress Association organised the public meetings when Dungog Shire Council declined to consider the Port Stephens proposal.

Only one Dungog councillor, Stephen Farrow, was at the meeting.

Mr Wallis told those in attendance that Port Stephens has a strong financial position and could help reduce infrastructure backlogs.

"It would be a sound investment for both councils," he said.

"There would be costs but these would be manageable.

"We are aware of Dungog's backlog and I believe it can be effectively managed.

"We believe there will be an increase in service delivery.  Dungog has done a great job to date considering they are understaffed and under resourced.

"A merger with Port Stephens would be more beneficial for the hip pocked than Maitland."

In a flyer circulated at the meeting it was stated in a few years Maitland's average residential rates will be 70 per cent higher than Port Stephens and 127 per cent higher than Dungog.​

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