Dungog and Port Stephens Council merger not on the table as yet

JUMPING THE GUN: The only merger possibilities at the current moment for Dungog Shire Council are Dungog and Gloucester or Dungog and Maitland.
JUMPING THE GUN: The only merger possibilities at the current moment for Dungog Shire Council are Dungog and Gloucester or Dungog and Maitland.

Dungog Council is aware of a leaflet being circulated about meetings regarding a Dungog and Port Stephens merger proposal which contains assertions and statements that need clarification and correction.

On March 15 this year, Dungog Shire Council did not decide to “leave it up to the community to investigate”.  

This was the opinion of only one councillor that expressed such during the debate on the general manager’s report. 

Council has deliberately and strategically dealt with each merger proposal announced by the government.

Maitland City Council did not say that it did not want to merge with Dungog. 

Maitland’s present, standing motion was to inform the Minister [for Local Government Paul Toole] it would accept a merger with Dungog and have stated that they are respectful of Dungog Shire’s vision and rural aspects.

The claim of doubling of rates if Dungog merged with Maitland is grossly overstated.

From a merged council perspective there will need to be a differential rating structure put in place until service levels are harmonised between the merging councils.

Whilst this council disagrees with the state government’s stance regarding a four year rates moratorium, this is the current position of government in relation to rates increases.

The existing approved rates pricing path applies in relation to the respective local government areas for four years.

The only merger possibilities at the current moment for Dungog Shire Council are Dungog and Gloucester or Dungog and Maitland. 

The Minister has made it clear that there are 45 merger proposals being investigated at the present moment and Dungog and Port Stephens is not one of them.

Dungogand Maitland is one of those 45 and the Minister has said, “It may be likely that consideration of any further proposals may occur subsequent to the proposals under consideration”.

This means that the current 45 proposals are being investigated at present and the reports of the delegates will be reviewed by the Boundaries Commission and Mr O’Toole.

The Minister will then make his determinations and seek a proclamation from the Governor in relation to those local government areas that are to be amalgamated.

Whilst the Minister has a legislative responsibility to forward merger proposals on to either the Boundaries Commission or the Chief Executive of the Office of Local Government in a timely manner, there is no legislative time-frame in which such proposals are to be dealt with by either party.

As implied by the Minister in his letter the current round of merger proposals will be dealt with before any other merger proposals (eg.Dungog and Port Stephens) are even considered.

The Minister has not stated that Dungog will not be allowed to stand alone. 

At the last ordinary meeting of council a motion again stated council’s preference to stand alone but recognised that this would require substantial rate rises and government financial support. 

This motion was published in full in the Chronicle last week

The Minister is not holding back on a Dungog and Port Stephens option simply because at this time it is not one of the 45 the options being considered.

The Minister is considering, as one of the 45 proposals, the merger of Port Stephens and Newcastle Councils.

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