MINISTER for Local Government Paul Toole remained coy this week on the likelihood of a Port Stephens Council merger with either Newcastle or Dungog councils.
Councils from across the state gathered in Wollongong where a string of unresolved mergers was the hot topic.
Mr Toole would only say was that these options were still under review, while the legal challenges of other councils roll on.
Port Stephens Council deputy mayor, Cr Chris Doohan, pushed him on the topic.
“Four councils in the Hunter remain in limbo awaiting the government’s decision: Maitland City Council, Dungog Shire Council, Newcastle City Council – I use the term council here very loosely – and Port Stephens Council,” he said.
“I thank the state government for making Newcastle’s dysfunctional council look good in recent times with the announcement it will host the V8 Supercars… please note this does not make them any more palatable for a merger with Port Stephens.
“Since the decision to merge Newcastle with Port Stephens, the high-performing council of Port Stephens has been paralysed awaiting the final decision.
“Our highly qualified staff are being poached at an alarming rate and that’s not an invitation to anyone here to poach more.
“Our residents are totally disenfranchised. Can you please let us know when we can expect a final decision and I implore you to ensure that Newcastle is left alone to implode.”
Mr Toole took the podium and thanked Cr Doohan for his question.
“There are two proposals currently under consideration and they are the Newcastle one and the merger proposal that was put forward by Port Stephens themselves, with Dungog,” he said.
“They are under consideration and there are a number of [other councils] in the courts at the moment and that’s one where we’re waiting to see what resolution comes in the near future, and make a decision on all of them together, if not sooner rather than later.
“I understand that will be important to your staff and your communities as well.”
The Local Government NSW Annual Conference ran October 16-18. Port Stephens Council general manager Wayne Wallis was in attendance with councillors Sally Dover and Paul Le Mottee as well as Cr Chris Doohan.