Minister Paul Toole tight lipped on Newcastle, Port Stephens and Dungog inquiry report

NO WORD: The state government announced a swathe of proposed mergers in December. But it is yet to let residents see any detail of the reviews.
NO WORD: The state government announced a swathe of proposed mergers in December. But it is yet to let residents see any detail of the reviews.

PRESSURE has begun to mount on the state government to release reports made from a series of inquiries into council mergers.

Residents gave evidence to the inquiries in February – a review of proposed mergers that included Port Stephens and Newcastle – in good faith speakers would see the reports before a decision is made.

“By keeping these documents under wraps until after a ministerial announcement, flies in the face of the principles of accountability and good governance,” Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association president Geoff Washington said.

“It also raises the suspicion that there were probably too many sound arguments and figures rejecting many contested mergers, such as Port Stephens and Newcastle city.”

Despite calls from groups like Tomaree Ratepayers Association and the state opposition, Minister for Local Government Paul Toole has yet to budge.

“The Baird-Grant Government pretends to be listening to communities but instead they are being completely ignored,” state Opposition Leader Luke Foley said.

“Why is this Premier continually withholding information from the public? What information is the Premier hiding?”

The merger process has been plagued by criticism.

The state government has repeatedly refused to release the flawed KPMG report that it used to justify merger proposals including the Newcastle-Port Stephens marriage.

Earlier this month the opposition members revealed that delegates conducting public inquiries into forced council amalgamations were being paid $1500 a day.

And it took a Supreme Court ruling last week for Hornsby and Ku-ring-gai councils to gain access to their delegate’s report.

A spokesman for the Minister of Local Government said Paul Toole was simply following process.

“The Port Stephens proposal has been referred to the Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government for examination and report as required under the Local Government Act,” he said.

“The reports will be released following consideration by the Boundaries Commission and the Minister.”

Comments

Discuss "Merger reports under wraps"

Please note: All comments made or shown here are bound by the Online Discussion Terms & Conditions.