New look Council, but the old culture survives

*NB: This post has been edited at the request of the TRRA Management Committee and differs from the original article.

“The new Mayor and Councillors have made a disappointing start, at their first meeting held on 26 Sept 2017.”

The First Meeting:

The new Mayor and Councillors have made a disappointing start, at their first meeting held on 26 Sept 2017. They failed to take the opportunity to change the culture embraced by the previous Council, which all of them agreed to do at our TRRA Candidates Forum. (*What they said at the Forum*) The issues raised by TRRA were all about transparency, consultation and accountability and the decision to keep the existing meeting cycle structure was not in the best interests of the new Councillors to make properly considered decisions in future, for the public to have any notice of what is before Council or have any input into the process.

The council staff failed to follow their own Code of Meeting Practice by putting the Agenda and Council papers up on it’s website at about 9:30 am on the Monday, for the meeting on Tuesday. (Three days minimum notice for any meeting). This was when TRRA discovered that the staff had recommended that the meeting cycle remain as it was (Option 1). The only other options for consideration were to retain the current cycle with no committee at all (Option 2), or two committee meetings and two Ordinary Council meetings in the month with the meetings a week apart (Option 3.)This option would double the cost and frequency of meetings and was never a serious consideration. The pre 2012 option which TRRA recommended and debated at our Forum was not even presented as an option. This prompted a flurry of emails amongst the TRRA committee, some councillors and a formal letter to the councillors. 

The Decision:

When we arrived for the meeting we were informed (unofficially) that  Councillor Nell would move the motion to return to the pre 2012 cycle, against the staff recommendation, Councillor Abbott would second it, Councillor Arnott would support it and the rest would oppose or not support it. That is exactly what happened.

Councillor Le-Mottee vigorously supported the status quo, and attacked Option 3 on cost and frequency, seemingly oblivious to the actual motion that was being debated, talking about having 42 meetings in a year. Jordan launched a blistering attack on the proposition based on the ridiculous idea that the Committee meeting would have to be held in the lunch room because at some time in the past when no one from the public turned up they had had a few in there for convenience. He stated that transparency would not exist because we would not all be able to fit in there. These were ridiculous arguments that had nothing to do with what was being proposed.

Councillor Nell did not use his right of reply to shoot down these spurious arguments, the staff did not intervene and the Mayor said that he did not want to be seen to be going against the staff recommendation at his first meeting and would leave things as they were at this time. To top things off Clr. Nell voted for the status quo in the motion that followed.

We are also surprised that no one contested the Deputy Mayor’s position, the decision to make it a 12 month tenure might mean they intend to share it around.

PS Council Election History:

Five years ago we saw the full consequences of the referendum conducted with the previous Council elections in 2008, to reduce the representation from each ward from four Councillors to three, and have a Mayor elected by the people instead of fellow Councillors.

So at the next elections in 2012 we had the election of the first presidential style, popularly elected Mayor, meaning the Candidate with the most resources to expend in a campaign across the whole LGA would likely win. Mayor Mackenzie admitted in his declaration to the Electoral Commission that he had supported eight of the other candidates. This made sure that a good solid voting bloc would support his agenda. (In his declaration to the Electoral Commission he outspent rival Clr. Dingle by 10:1)

This did not just happen, it was a long term, well planned strategy, as revealed by then Clr. Steve Tucker in the Newcastle Herald Bruce Almighty series of articles in 2014.

We await with great interest the release of the declarations to the Electoral Commission to see who spent what in this campaign, but don’t hold your breath, that won’t be released under our crazy election laws until November 2018.

Changed Meeting Cycle

At the first Council meeting on Sept 25 2012, those Councillors radically changed the existing meeting cycles in a way that allowed them and senior administrative staff, to railroad controversial decisions through with minimum public scrutiny and participation.

The original system is still embraced by most other Councils around our LGA, (Newcastle City, Port Macquarie, Central Coast, North Sydney, Lane Cove, Hornsby, Mid-Western Regional, Northern Beaches, Mosman, Lismore, Queanbeyan-Palerang to name a few,) to allow proper notice to the public and informed decision making by councillors.

A Council meeting was held on the first Tuesday of the month which was classified as a ‘Committee of the whole’. This meant the Agenda and Council papers were released to the Councillors on a Friday evening at 5:00 PM and on the following Tuesday the agenda was discussed in an informal manner where Councillors could ask staff questions, speak more than once, etc. A vote was still taken on each issue, but it was only a recommendation to go to an ‘Ordinary Council Meeting’

The ‘Ordinary Council Meeting’ would be held on the last Tuesday of the month and would deal with the same agenda and recommendations, but could amend or debate those recommendations again before making a final decision on them in a formal manner.

This allowed sufficient time for Councillors to consider complex decisions properly, get advice from staff and do their homework before they had to vote. This also allowed the public and organisations like ours to consult with their Councillors and their members on the more contentious issues in the fortnight between meetings. It even allowed staff time to give Councillors advice on our submissions, no time is available for that now.

 The Current Meeting Cycle

The current system of having two Ordinary Council meetings a month and going into ‘Committee’ immediately before the formal vote allows voting blocs or those ‘in the know’ to railroad things through the system before proper consideration is given to issues or any opportunity for consultation with the public is given, and puts pressure on the other councillors to make ad hoc decisions that they don’t fully understand.

The public gets the Council information papers, which must be downloaded from the Council website at 5:00 pm on Friday evening. (Attempts have been made to do this earlier, but delivery has been inconsistent). This gives them the weekend and one working day to analyse the hundreds of pages of complex data. If they want to apply for Public Access to address the Council meeting this must be submitted before 12.00 midday on Monday. This is totally at the discretion of the Mayor, and can be refused without explanation. (Another policy exclusive to PS Council)

This makes for ill-considered decisions by Councillors (particularly inexperienced ones,) and the only way to put the process on hold to get more information is to move to defer the decision. The councillor then has to have the ‘numbers’ to do that, and can be accused of unnecessarily delaying the process. The other, even worse option, which frequently occurred in the last Council was to move a rescission motion, after the meeting, which inevitably leads to an expensive Extraordinary Council meeting to ram it through again the following week.

A classic case in point was the last Council meeting before the election where there were 946 pages of Council papers which included two contentious Flood mound developments that were recommended for refusal by Council Staff. Council did not go into ‘Committee of the whole’ mode at all, but dealt with the massive agenda without any prior discussion. One Flood mound was passed and one refused. A rescission motion was then moved after the meeting by the Mayor, forcing another Extraordinary General meeting the following week. A Councillor that refused the motion at the first meeting reversed their vote and it was passed at the following special meeting.

No explanation was ever given as to whether the Councillor was confused the first time or why the change of mind. These Extraordinary meetings cost about $5,000.00 each to run by councils own admission..

The Webcam

The other contentious decision taken by the previous Council was to remove the live webcasting of proceedings. Aside from the convenience factor of not having to travel to Raymond Terrace to attend meetings, TRRA feels that reinstating the webcam would lift the standard of debate and the conduct of meetings, if all were aware that proceedings were being broadcast live and a record was being kept of who was supporting what.

We understand that this promise by the new candidates is also meeting strong resistance from Council staff and the councillors from the previous Council.

It remains to be seen whether the new team will emerge with any credibility from that debate either, or even if it will ever be held. We were very optimistic that the ‘changing of the guard’ might result in a changing of the culture, transparency, accountability, consultation was what the new Councillors promised us,  It’s over to you to deliver now Councillors………..!

**NB**: An excellent letter containing more technical arguments on these topics has been sent to Council and staff from one of our TRRA committee members HERE. It is well worth a read.

Dick Appleby, TRRA Vice President and Media officer 

Lawyers Picnic At Lagoons Estate 2017

This is our annual roundup of the Lagoons Estate saga, we covered this in 2015, 2016, and now in 2017 it is still a Lawyers Picnic. On 12 September 2017 Justice Pembroke set down a further hearing date May, 2018. This case has now been in court 14 times since May 2016. The Judge himself made a scathing assessment of those involved and the costs incurred:

The conduct of the proceedings does not reflect well on the legal representatives or their clients. It has certainly not been in the interests of the parties or in the interests of justice. The current dispute has all the hallmarks of an attitude on both sides which is both myopic and pedantic. There has been an excessive focus on formality and minutiae, at the expense of the real issues in dispute. – NSW Supreme Court Justice Michael Pembroke

Journalist Joanne McCarthy’s excellent coverage, of this case and some discussion with the Lagoons Estate Resident Group is the only information we get on this matter. Deafening silence from PS Council.

Meet Our New Council

The final Council election results were made available at 11:38 am today on the Electoral Commission website HERE

Mayor: Ryan Palmer

Central Ward: Steve Tucker, Sarah Smith, Chris Doohan

East Ward: Glen Dunkley, Jamie Abbott, John Nell

West Ward: Giacomo Arnott, Ken Jordan, Paul Le-Mottee

TRRA Inc. Would like to congratulate all successful candidates on their election, and sincerely hopes that we can work constructively together with them in the new Council when they take up their roles.

Dysfunction highlighted at PS Council Meeting 28 March 2017

“Bearing in mind that now we have an Council election imminent on 09 September, TRRA strongly urge you as Port Stephens residents and ratepayers to attend a Council meeting and witness what the Councillors that you elected to represent you actually do at these meetings. Get a carload together for something different to do on a Tuesday evening. We can assure you that the entertainment provided is just as good as what is available on TV on a Tuesday nights and it is part of your civic duty to be properly informed before you choose your representatives.”

Examiner 29 March: ‘Enough Already’ with code of conduct 

28 March 2017 Ordinary Council Minutes 21 MB PDF

Four TRRA committee members attended Port Stephens Council meeting on 28 March. Read the Press report above and browse through the minutes, this is our perspective on the meeting.

As usual, there was far too much on the agenda at short notice, with Councillors admitting that they had no time to read all the papers.  Also as usual, local issues took up most of the meeting, with really important policies and strategies being waved through without discussion.

We urge people to review the suite of Integrated Plans documents which will be on Exhibition for the whole of April – it includes important financial commitments and the ‘Forward Works’ program of infrastructure improvements which Councillors keep changing, with new projects ‘queue jumping’ over long awaited ones.

There was a heated exchange at the outset over Cllr Geoff Dingle’s attempt to have a Code of Conduct investigation of him discussed in open session. From media reports and Cllr Dingle’s statement, we know that the Office of Local Government found that there was no basis for the adverse finding against Cllr Dingle.  But Council has continued to dig in, dealing with the matter in secret, accepting a second report by the same investigator and reconfirmed it’s previous decision to sanction Cllr Dingle.  This seems to be an ill-judged and unfounded campaign to silence Cllr Dingle, who is one of the few voices of opposition to the ruling bloc of Councillors.  The public needs to know the details, especially the advice provided by the Office of Local Government so we can all make a proper judgement.

Three applications for developments on earth mounds in flood risk areas were refused, in line with staff recommendations.  This was a refreshing change as there have been numerous occasions in the past where Councillors have overridden professional advice and approved similar DAs – potentially exposing residents and emergency service workers to risks during floods, and Council to potential legal liability.

At least 90 minutes of the meeting were taken up by a dispute over a sub-division proposal for land at the entrance to the Dunes Golf Course in Medowie.  In what Councillors admitted was a ‘stuff up’, two lots had been re-zoned as part of a wider re-zoning of the golf course development, without the knowledge of the new owners.  The owners of one lot are now seeking to sub-divide, to allow for a separate dwelling. Residents of this prestigious large lot residential area are understandably upset and the issue is further complicated by the use of the entrance road to the golf course as an unofficial transport interchange, with potential accident risks to school children.  Two residents spoke passionately against the DA in ‘public access’, loudly applauded by a large public gallery. In an unusual defeat for the Mayor, only one other Councillor supported him in seeking approval for the DA and it was refused by a majority.  However, we understand that a rescission motion has since been lodged and the numbers may be different at the next meeting.  While this may seem of no interest to Tomaree residents, we have reported it as an example of Council dysfunction.

Councillors also approved, without discussion, three important compliance related policies, with the staff report brushing aside a detailed submission from TRRA as being about ‘operational’ matters rather than the policies themselves.  While this may be technically correct, we are disappointed that none of the Councillors were willing to at least debate what we see as major failings in Council’s compliance efforts (had they even read the report?)

Bearing in mind that now we have an Council election imminent on 09 September,  TRRA strongly urge you as Port Stephens residents and ratepayers to attend a Council meeting and witness what the Councillors that you elected to represent you actually do at these meetings. Get a carload together for something different to do on a Tuesday evening. We can assure you that the entertainment provided is just as good as what is available on TV on a Tuesday nights and it is part of your civic duty to be properly informed before you choose your representatives.

As we have said before, we never cease to be amused at the reaction of ‘first timers’ in the public gallery. Some are gobsmacked. We remind you that $20,000.00 of ratepayers funds was spent on a webcam installation so that we could watch and listen to this at leisure on our computers at home, but the first thing this Council did was unplug it so that we have to drive to Raymond Terrace now instead. Come along to the next Council meeting and see why………

Soldiers Point Marina Update March 2017

Soldiers Point Community Group Inc.

To Members and Friends,

Up-Date on Proposed Extension of the Soldiers Point Marina: Land and Environment Court Proceedings – Class 1 Appeal – Clippers Anchorage Pty Ltd

After the exchange of Reports by both parties the matter has been set down for Hearing in the Land and Environment Court between the 3rd and 7th April 2017.

Following a site inspection at Soldiers Point on Monday 3rd April by the Commissioner and both parties’ legal representatives and experts the public hearing will commence at the Soldiers Point Hall at 12 noon.   After hearing objector evidence from members of the Soldiers Point Community Group and other independent speakers, time permitting, the Court will resume at Newcastle Local Court for the remainder of the day.

As this is a public hearing we hope that as many of our members and friends will attend the hearing at Soldiers Point on Monday 3rd April 2017 to support our dedicated speakers.

On the following days, 4 – 7 April, the proceedings will be held in the Land and Environment Court, 225 Macquarie Street, Sydney.

It would be wonderful if a representative from our Group could attend the Land and Environment Court in Sydney on any of the days between the 4th and 7th April to listen to the proceedings.  All sessions are open to the public and this may just suite some of our Sydney members and friends.

We will update you with any information which comes to hand prior to that date. Please feel free to contact me if you require any further information.

Yours sincerely,

Jean Armstrong

Acting Secretary: Soldiers Point Community Group Inc.

02 49820849

TRRA Previous Submission HERE

Earlier Story On Soldiers Point Marina HERE 18 March 2016

Nelson Bay at the Crossroads

Examiner 07 March 2017: TRRA pushes for strict height limits in Nelson Bay CBD  – Keeping the character or the town Non Negotiable

This opinion piece in the Examiner by Nigel Waters, TRRA Planning Committee Convener, will be the last word in the media from TRRA on the building heights issue, before submissions are due today on 13 March 2013.

At a Council Meeting 13 December 2016 a decision was taken to review the:

2012 Nelson Bay Town and Foreshore Strategy 2012 (5.6 MB)

As part of this review, Council  released the three documents below for public exhibition on 13 Feb 2017.

TRRA have made a comprehensive submission on the review with an appendix of comments on the two reports by the consultants above.

TRRA Submission – 2017 Nelson Bay Strategy Review

Attachment: Comments on HillPDA and EPS reports.

We are sure that many of you have made excellent submissions on this important subject, which has had a very god run in the local media, and drew over 200 people to our last TRRA General Meeting. Below is a personal submission from our TRRA President Geoff Washington.

Personal Submission on 2017 Nelson Bay Strategy Review

If you have prepared a good submission that has some different points than those covered above send it to and we will consider posting it here for others to see. We value your input.

February 2017 Newsletter – DA Watch

Our General Meeting, 7:00 pm Tuesday 21 Feb at Nelson Bay Bowling Club is shaping up to be one of the most important for Nelson Bay Residents for some time. Two major issues will be discussed at this meeting.

  1. The review of the Nelson Bay Town & Foreshore Strategy, including a proposal to uncap building heights in the CBD. Council Planners have agreed to attend the meeting to report on progress of the review and a discussion paper that will be released prior to the meeting. Please take this opportunity to come along for a briefing on this important issue and to get the answers to the questions that you have directly from the Senior PSC Planners.
  2. The Council Amalgamation Fiasco that is dominating the headlines surrounding the resignation of NSW Premier Baird and the election of his deputy Gladys Berejiklian to the job. At the time of writing this, (Sunday Feb 05 2017) we we are predicting that this matter will come to a head in the next few days. With a split in the Coalition on the issue, the Nationals leader calling for the halt of all amalgamations in the bush, and a couple of bye elections imminent in seats affected by mergers we think the new Premier will move quickly to clear the decks on this issue. We will know the outcome by the time of our meeting and the implications will be discussed at length. Our Council has spent over quarter of a million dollars of ratepayers money on this so far, and does not seem to have achieved much. The current situation of uncertainty cannot continue, ratepayers have been disenfranchised indefinitely and if a decision about an election or the appointment of an administrator is not made soon, the Electoral Commission has made it clear that the current impasse could continue until after the State Elections in 2019. This would be unacceptable.
  3. The DA watch below reflects the incredible amount of work being done by the TRRA Planning Committee  evaluating the large number of Development Applications that have come in over the holiday period. We are now including links to the Many TRRA submissions that have been produced by this Committee so that you can understand the issues raised and comment on them at our meetings or make your own submissions. Please feel free to write to the Committee or comment on our website. We are working on a project to post all submissions made by TRRA since 2008 on our website in a searchable index so that they are available to members, the public and the media for reference. So many of them resurface every few years………….. Have a look HERE at some of the earlier ones 2008 – 2011. Déjà vu indeed!

DA watch – February 2017

Since the last report in the  September 2016 DA watch and the November 2016 Newsletter, there have been several significant developments (sic) on the planning front.

Shoal Bay – You win some, you lose some! 

The redevelopment proposal for the Santa Catalina Motel at Shoal Bay has been approved, with Council dismissing objections from TRRA and neighbours about it exceeding height limits and changing the character of the eastern end of Shoal Bay Road. TRRA SubmissionCouncil Response.  In contrast, a controversial proposal for 10 units on two blocks on Leonard Avenue, also in Shoal Bay, has been withdrawn after objections from local residents and a critical submission from TRRA.  TRRA Submission

Examiner 01 Feb 2017: Leonard Street proposal prompts caution from Shoal Bay neighbours

Salamander Centre – Next stage firms up

Plan 155 Salamander Way – July 2016

Following the subdivision of the land and approval of infrastructure works now under construction Council applied for a further subdivision of the large lot north of McDonalds, and DAs have been lodged for a free-standing Aldi store on the western part of that site, TRRA Submission, and for a service station next to the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet on Bagnall’s Beach Road.  TRRA Submission.

Examiner 20 Jan 2017: ALDI Australia asks Port Stephens Council’s approval for Bagnall Beach Road store.

TRRA has made submissions on both DAs, repeating our earlier concerns about integration with the existing shopping centre, pedestrian access, shade, and landscaping.  While we all welcome new investment, and new services, we question the public benefit of simply moving an existing store, and of a second servo.  The overall development of Council’s land at the Salamander Centre remains, in our view, a disappointing hotch-potch of fragmented ‘boxes’ and a major missed opportunity

Nelson Bay Town Centre – New apartments?

Apart from the current review of the Nelson Bay Strategy, with the major issue of building heights, How High ? – Community faces critical decision on Nelson Bay building heights?, we await a Council decision soon on the proposed 33 metre – 8 storey Ascent Apartments at 11-13 Church St.  The developer has been actively marketing the units – presumably anticipating approval.  TRRA submitted that a decision on this proposal – which is more than double the current height limit for the site, is premature until the Strategy review was complete and a community consensus reached on building heights.  TRRA Submission

Examiner 11 Jan 2017: Donald Street and Church Street apartment sites have faced historical financial and planning challenges

To be consistent, we made the same submission on another proposal for an apartment building further north on Church St at the corner with Donald St (65-67 Donald), While this one is for only 19 metres (6 storeys), it still well exceeds the current 15 metre height limit and should, we feel, also be deferred until the Strategy review is complete. TRRA Submission

Examiner 11 Jan 2017: Plans progress for Church Street and Donald Street apartment buildings

Examiner 30 Jan 2017: Heights, parking under review


 Soldiers Point Marina – Another round!

The applicant has appealed the JRPP refusal of the marina expansion to the Land and Environment Court.  A mass of new documents were lodged in the last two months of 2016 which the Soldiers Point Community Group made a great job of analysing, with the assistance of the Environmental Defender’s Office.  TRRA supported the local community with a further submission, which Council requested to help them continue their opposition to the expansion, on a number of environmental, traffic and amenity grounds.  The next Court hearing is in February. Soldiers Point Marina

For more Info keep checking the TRRA Website and come along to our General Meeting 7:00 pm Nelson Bay Bowling Club, 21 February 2017.

OPINION: Musing on Mergers – Out of the frying pan, into…..?

PS CouncilThis clip is from an article in the Herald recently (28 May 2016 HERE) about the rail corridor, and sums up my thinking for some time on what will come out of the merger process:

“An amalgamation between Newcastle and Port Stephens has been put on the backburner pending further investigation of an alternative proposal to merge Port Stephens with Dungog, but many councillors expect the original proposal to proceed.

Under the amalgamation process, at least two elected representatives from each council will be appointed to an Implementation Advisory Group and continue to be paid fees. A spokesperson for Local Government Minister Paul Toole said appointments would be made by the administrator and might not necessarily include mayors.

Councillors could also nominate to sit on a Local Representation Committee, which would include other community members.

Mr. Toole said recently the “interim governance arrangements” would ensure “effective implementation and continued local representation” until elections for new councils were held in September 2017.

Mr. Baird’s spokesperson said no decision on the Newcastle-Port Stephens merger had been made.”

We now have the full Delegates report on the NCC/PSC merger to the Boundaries Commission and the Minister. Given that Mr. Ian Reynolds saw fit to acknowledge the overwhelming level of resistance from the communities in their attendances at his public hearings and in all their written submissions, but just dismissed all the issues raised with: “There is no impediment to the Proposal proceeding” on all 12 criteria that he had to consider, we see this Proposal proceeding as planned.

The PSC/Dungog merger proposal was ignored by the Government until PSC threatened legal action, then another delegate was appointed to look into that, but the possibility of him acting on public submissions or submitting a dissenting report on what the Government obviously decided six months ago, we see as highly unlikely. The delay has just moved another messy merger to the other side of the Federal Election campaign to take the heat off Paterson and Lyne.

Dungog We Luv U

We are aware from discussions with NCC and Dungog Councillors, that despite his strong public support for the Dungog merger, rumors abound that our present General Manager has been involved in preliminary interviews for the GM’s job in the proposed NCC/PSC merger. He has been involved in several mergers in previous roles and his CV and present role would probably make him a strong contender for the position. Classic two bob each way.

Our Mayor and his supporters on Council have very publically opposed the reform process and have been vocally critical of the Government and the Minister, so would probably not be asked to fill a role in the interim governance or the implementation phase. Some of their recent decisions, particularly about S94 funds etc. are starting to look a bit desperate, the penny is dropping that they may not be there for much longer and will try to clean out the kitty and push through a few questionable projects before they go.

It is a bitter/sweet result for us as ratepayers, it will definitely clean out the ‘boys club’ that has dominated our Council for some years, but I wonder what the Government has in mind to replace it with. There is no reason that I can see for the Government to cancel the scheduled Council elections for this September, other than to implement their own Agenda State wide, by suspending the democratic process and appointing handpicked administrators to do their bidding unopposed in the interim 17 months.

Let us fervently hope that we are not being flipped out of the frying pan and into the fire…….. We will find out early July.

Dick Appleby, TRRA Media Officer

PS: Will we be Hunter Coast Council as the Delegate says, Port Castle Council, New Port Council, Castle Stephens Council, Dungport or Portdung Council? It is a bit of a worry ……! What do you think it should be called?

May 12 2016 – TRRA Update On Council Mergers

*Breaking News*: Newcastle Herald 12 May 2016:  NSW Council amalgamations announced by Premier Mike Baird  

“Mike Baird has just announced that 19 new Councils will be formed across the state through amalgamations. Administrators and interim general managers have been appointed to each of the new councils, which will hold their elections until September next year – 12 months later than those not being merged.”

“Newcastle, Port Stephens, Maitland and Dungog are yet to discover their fate while Gloucester is listed among those disappearing into new entities”

“Three public inquiries have been scheduled. They are for 12am to 4pm June 8 at Nelson Bay Diggers, 7pm to 10pm June 8 at Raymond Terrace Bowling Club, and 7pm to 10pm June 9 at Dungog Memorial RSL.

Submissions will remain open until June 26.”


So the Premier has decided to clear the decks before the Federal Election, leaving a few swinging seats until afterwards. It has already been announced that PSC’s proposal to merge with Dungog will be open for comment until 26 June so that takes it right up to the Federal Election 02 July before the decision will be announced, probably in the aftermath of the election when nobody is listening. 

Our Council seems to have adopted the Federal Government’s mantra of “Jobs and Growth,” our Councillors and GM’s own jobs and the growth of the size of the LGA. In a desperate bid to hold onto their jobs and little bit of power, the Councillors and our GM have appropriated another $20,000.00 of ratepayers money to promote the Dungog proposal on top of the $200,000.00 that they have spent fighting the Newcastle one. All we have seen of that so far is a few soggy sausage sandwiches at the public rallies. TRRA are pretty sure this decision was already made 6 months ago, it is just a matter of when it will be announced. 

Mea culpa!….. Apologies to Rotary who supplied the Sausage sandwiches.  we have been assured by all who partook that they were excellent, and a lot more palatable than some of the speeches………… !

TRRA Wrote to Councillors on 01 May 2016:

“Having considered the business case for the Merger with Dungog, TRRA is not convinced of the merits of advocating a union with a Council which was judged by IPART to be “unfit for the future”. The ILGRP indicated that Dungog Shire Council did not appear financially sustainable and noted that it had received a ‘distressed’ rating in DLG’s Infrastructure Audit. ILGRP also noted that Dungog Council had its own reservations about its capacity to meet infrastructure obligations in the medium term.
TRRA has not found sufficient evidence in the business case to demonstrate any benefits for Port Stephens ratepayers in a merger with Dungog Council. That council is responsible for a sparsely populated area 2.5 times greater than our current LGA with only 6,700 electors to foot the bill for an extensive network of rural roads and bridges. IPART found Dungog not to meet the benchmark for asset maintenance and infrastructure.
TRRA also queries the extent of community of interest with Dungog whose residents might be expected to relate more to Maitland and Newcastle than Raymond Terrace or other areas of Port Stephens.”

Here is the latest political spray from our Mayor:
PS Converse (Audio) – Episode 16 12 May 2016 – Alan Jones, Bruce MaKenzie on Council Mergers and Politics
Examiner 12 May 2016: Minister for Local Government Paul Toole refuses to take Port Stephens-Newcastle council option off the Table 

Government Proclamation: Local Government (Council Amalgamations) Proclamation 2016 


Dungog We Luv U

Is this the new Port Stephens promotion logo?

Dungog-PSC 1PSC was set to take legal action to force the Minister for Local Government to hold an inquiry into its proposal for a merger with Dungog Council. An Extraordinary Meeting was called for Monday 2 May 2016 to appropriate another $50,000.00 of ratepayers money for legal fees to take the State Government to the Supreme Court, because PSC’s perception was that their proposal for a merger with Dungog Council did not appear to be under proper consideration by the Government.

According to their Press release (Link Below) the Council that day received a letter advising that a decision has been made to appoint a delegate to inquire into the PSC/ Dungog merger proposal.  No timing was indicated in the letter.

Some more work will be needed to thoroughly assess the Council’s proposal and the Morrison Low report, to see if we consider it is in the best interests of our ratepayers. Our initial comments to Councillors are in the link below.


Newcastle Herald May 12 2016 (late): Hunter local government leaders lash Baird over council merger plans | poll 

Sydney Morning Herald 12 May 2016: Council amalgamations: Elected officials out and administrators in after Mike Baird sacks 42 councils


 09 March 2016: PSC’s Merger Proposal for Port Stephens Council and Dungog Shire Council (PDF 4MB)

 Examiner 11 May 2016: Port Stephens Council approves $20,000 publicity campaign to merge with Dungog 

02 May 2016: Notice: Special PSC Meeting Re Dungog Merger 

 01 May 2016: TRRA Letter To Councillors Re Dungog Merger 

Examiner 29 April 2016: Port Stephens Council wants Dungog option reviewed under threat of legal action

 Newcastle Herald 02 May 2016: Port Stephens Council will take state government to court to have Dungog option heard 

PSC Website 02 May 2016: Delegate’s appointment sees extraordinary meeting cancelled

Are The Mambo Wetlands Under Threat?

07 Sept 2017: Mambo Sale among $9 billion in asset sales

Update 04 October 2016

There has been a major initiative from the Hunter Koala Protection Society to highlight the loss of Koala habitat and to promote the idea of a Koala Hospital for the area. The proposed site is the old Samurai, now TreeEscape site at One Mile Beach, Crown Land, Leased by PSC. There has been saturation coverage of this campaign in the Examiner of late. TRRA has invited RON LAND, the Vice president of the Society to address this as the guest speaker at our TRRA AGM, Tuesday 18 September 2016, 7:00 pm at the Nelson Bay Bowling Club. – Press release HERE

We now discover that the Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter has belatedly admitted that the Mambo wetlands site was sold off by ‘mistake’ and we have finally found out who bought it.

Examiner 27 Sept 2016: Scott MacDonald, Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, says Mambo sale shouldn’t have happened.

Newcastle Herald 28 Sept 2016: Port Stephens MP Kate Washington asks government to reverse Mambo Wanda wetlands sale.

**Saturday 22 Oct 2016: Come and walk the Mambo Wetlands**

This is an initiative by the Greens to draw attention to the Mambo Wetlands issue, save the date…..

95 Spectacular Pictures of the fauna and flora of Mambo Wetlands By Guy Innes, Available to download HERE  (Caution Large PDF File, 25 MB, give it time to load) Can we afford to lose any of this?
Guy Innes: ‘Let Mambo Breathe!’ 

What you can do: 160524 Mambo Wetlands forum – handout

160607 TRRA Letter to Minister for Education & Community Services

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Newcastle Herald 07 June 2016: Bidders meet reserve in sale of Salamander Bay land covering Mambo Wanda Wetlands | poll 

Newcastle Herald 06 June 2016: Port Stephens koala habitat at risk by ‘secret’ government land sale 

Examiner May 24 2016: Department of Education land sale prompts Save Mambo Wetlands forum 

Newcastle Herald 24 May 2016: Community forum to discuss school land sale at Salamander Bay

Newcastle Herald 24 May 2016:  Port Stephens Council urges Adrian Piccoli to ‘stop the clock’ on land sale 

Knight Frank Real Estate Promotion (Click on pictures in link)

Mambo Land Sale

Update 20 May 2016: Letter from Kate Washington MP to all Community Groups Re: ‘Save Mambo Wetlands’ Community Forum 5:45 PM Thursday 26 May 2016 Horizons Golf Course.  TRRA will be supporting this initiative, we will see you there!

Update 18 May 2016: We received A passionate email today HERE from a resident of Foreshore Drive that he has given permission to use, to assist in our submissions objecting to the sale of the 6 hectares of land in the wetlands currently owned by the Education Dept. who, it seems, have instructions from Mr Baird to sell off all surplus land.

Report on Community Meeting 14 May 2016 Below

Original Post –  12 May 2016 : Some very observant local activists noticed this ad in the Newcastle Herald Saturday 7 May 2016 and contacted PS Council for a response:

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“A number of Department of Education sites were listed for sale in the Newcastle Herald on 7 May 2016. We have received a number of queries in relation to these sites as have Councillors.

182 and 246-248 Port Stephens Dr and 10-14 Short Rd, Salamander Bay 

The land for sale includes seven lots, with six of the lots between 657m² and 680m² in size and one lot being 5.6ha in size (182 Port Stephens Drive). The sites are all zoned E2- Environmental Conservation and are currently heavily vegetated. Port Stephens Council owns the sites to the east and west of 182 Port Stephens Drive (see diagram below). The minimum lot size for subdivision of these lots is 40ha, with all of the lots being under Mambo 4this requirement. 

The constraints on the site include bushfire, acid sulphate soils, Koala habitat (supplementary) and flooding. The site is also subject to the provisions of SEPP 71 – Coastal Protection.

Council has not received any planning proposal to rezone the land or has had any meetings regarding the future development of these sites. The site is noted by the Office of Environmental Heritage as having high environmental value.  

Under the current environmental zoning, any future development is limited and must be in accordance with the Local Environmental Plan.”

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TRRA contacted Walter Lamond, Chair of the 355B Landcare Group that has been caring for the site on behalf of the local residents for the last 20 years and he indicated that although they were aware of who owned the land, they had no indication that the department had now designated the land as surplus to requirements and that it was to be sold off in an online auction on 9 June 2016. He also indicated that an application

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had been put in some time in 2011 for all the Mambo Wetlands to be declared an Aboriginal place, because artifacts etc. had been found on the site.

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Local Member Kate Washington has been contacted and is investigating this proposal and has put a question in Parliament to the Education Minister.

The Mambo Wetlands Community Group has set up a Facebook Page and have arranged for NBN3 TV to cover a meeting they are having on Saturday 14 May 2016 at 10:00 am at the site and have asked concerned people and local Community Groups to show support.

The Maps show the site bounded by Foreshore Drive and Port Stephens Drive with Council land on either side, and this is all in what most of the Community thought was the Mambo Wetlands Reserve.

Dick Appleby – TRRA MEDIA Officer

Examiner 12 may 2016: Department of Education lists Salamander Bay and Fullerton Cove properties for sale 

Newcastle Herald 12 May 2016:  Port Stephens Drive school land sale at Salamander Bay sparks Mambo Wanda wetlands fears


Update 14 May 2016 – Community Meeting: The meeting at the Mambo Wetlands site was very well attended by about 120 people, which shows what can be done when local community groups work together to mobilize their membership at short notice on a good cause. 160514 Community Meeting The meeting was addressed by State MP Kate Washington,  Federal Labor Candidate for Paterson Meryl Swanson, representatives of the Greens, community groups including TRRA. NBN3 TV arrived towards the end of the meeting and interviewed some of the speakers.

The community gathering on 14 May 2016 endorsed, by acclamation, the plan put forward by Walter Lamond of the Mambo Wanda Wetlands Landcare Committee that was as follows: