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?

This entry was posted in 2016, Council Amalgamations, PORT STEPHENS COUNCIL, STATE GOVERNMENT and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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