Tomaree Business Chamber 'happy' merger's off, TRRA says it's a 'missed opportunity' for reform

NO WAY: Port Stephens rally against a merger Raymond Terrace on February 14, 2016. A year later, to the day, the new Premier Gladys Berejiklian has called it off.
NO WAY: Port Stephens rally against a merger Raymond Terrace on February 14, 2016. A year later, to the day, the new Premier Gladys Berejiklian has called it off.

Tomaree Business Chamber has welcomed Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s decision to axe any Port Stephens merger.

Whether or not Port Stephens should merge with Newcastle or Dungog was a question that went unanswered for 14 months.

“It’s definitely a win for the people of Port Stephens,” chamber president Ryan Palmer said. 

“It’s fantastic that it’s finally over and we can get on with the job of making Port Stephens a great place to be.”

Port Stephens Council developed a case to merge with Dungog in response to the Newcastle proposal first put forward by the state government.

The mayor of Port Stephens, Cr Bruce MacKenzie, has maintained the Dungog option could still work.

In one interview with the Examiner he said it would “future proof” Port Stephens against any further state government moves.

Mr Palmer said it was too soon to talk about Dungog.

“It’s great that Dungog is off the table too,” he said.

“There’s talk of council helping Dungog down the track but let’s leave it at that; something we talk about down the track.”

The merger investigations put Port Stephens in a state of planning limbo. The Office of Local Government decreed that councils should not commit to any major projects that might impede a future council while it considered the proposed amalgamations.

Mr Palmer said this had left Port Stephens behind the eight ball. 

“There’s a 10-year works program to be done and the merger was given as the reason we haven’t progressed with that,” he said.

“We need some projects to be delivered. Projects like Apex Park aren’t even on the plan yet.”

Tomaree Ratepayers and Residents Association said the merger back-down was a “missed opportunity”.

“Mike Baird, (past deputy Premier) Troy Grant and (past Minister for Local Government) Paul Toole have wasted an opportunity for much needed local government reform with their ambitious attempt to merge multiple NSW councils,” TRRA vice president Dick Appleby said.

“Ratepayers of Newcastle, Dungog and Port Stephens councils have been disenfranchised by this decision.”

Ms Berejiklian has said the council elections would go ahead on September 9.

“Newcastle, Dungog and Port Stephens councils have had their terms extended by a full year without facing the voters at an election,” Mr Appleby said.

It's a win for the people

Ryan Palmer

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