Port Stephens Council would love to tie the knot with Dungog Shire Council in a marriage merger

GOOD CROWD: Some of the interested Dungog Shire residents at the Port Stephens-Dungog merger proposal meeting on Wednesday night.
GOOD CROWD: Some of the interested Dungog Shire residents at the Port Stephens-Dungog merger proposal meeting on Wednesday night.

Port Stephens Council's general manager Wayne Wallis gave a very comprehensive presentation to an interested audience on Wednesday evening on why a merger between them and Dungog Shire Council is a viable alternative to one with Maitland.

Mr Wallis was invited to address the public meeting by members of the Dungog Shire Residents Group and Clarence Town Progress Association.

The meeting was organised by John and Lisa Connors and Brian Farmer due to the refusal of Dungog Council to consider any merger partner or hold public meetings to inform and consult residents.

Only one Dungog councillor, Stephen Farrow, was at the meeting.

There are two merger proposals on the table - one for Maitland and Dungog as well as the Gloucester-Dungog one proposed by the state government back in December last year.

Mr Wallis said some of the merger options proposed by the state government defied logic.

"All their good planning went out the door with some of the mergers announced," he said.

"We weren't happy with the Port-Newcastle proposal and held a number of public meetings within our council area.

"Everyone who attended was unanimous they didn't want to merge with Newcastle either.

"We have put in a proposal to merge with Dungog and there has been some support from within the shire to merge with us.

"Our community has also indicated interest in a merger with Dungog Shire.

"The minister is reviewing our proposal but I am not sure where it is up to at this stage."

Mr Wallis said Port Stephens has a strong financial position and could help reduce infrastructure backlogs.

"It would be a sound investment for both councils," he said.

"There would be costs but these would be manageable.

"We are aware of Dungog's backlog and I believe it can be effectively managed.

"We believe there will be an increase in service delivery.  Dungog has done a great job to date considering they are understaffed and under resourced.

"A merger with Port Stephens would be more beneficial for the hip pocked than Maitland."

In a flyer circulated at the meeting it was stated in a few years Maitland's average residential rates will be 70 per cent higher than Port Stephens and 127 per cent higher than Dungog.

And the average Maitland farmland rates will be 40 per cent higher than Port Stephens and 60 per cent higher than Dungog by 2020-2021.

However one downside would be less representation on a merged council.

"There are 70,000 people in Port Stephens with 51,000 eligible to vote," Mr Wallis said.

"Dungog shire has 5000 eligible to vote so there representation would be less than they are used to . . . maybe only two councillors.

"Existing staffing levels at Dungog will be largely unchanged under a merged entity.

"I can see no reason why the office and depot would not remain to continue to service the area."

Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie was also present and said he would like to be "a family".

"You will be treated the same as Swan Bay, Salamander Bay . . .

"We want you, Maitland doesn't.

"Make your feelings felt and marry Port Stephens."

Residents are urged to attend the public meeting between 3-6pm on Wednesday, April 6 at Dungog Bowling Club and make their views known.

A second meeting is to be held in Gresford on Thursday evening.


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