LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Dungog Shire Amalgamation 

Since the consultants, Morrison Low gave their report at Clarence Town, which I attended, it is obvious that the Dungog ratepayers will be in for a rate rise of some proportion, no matter what happens.

Morrison and Low suggested a rise of 13 per cent for the next six years would be required.

Rate rises have been pegged by the State government and it was explained at the meeting by Steve Lowe, a former Mayor of Dungog, that rate increases were held low in tight times due to the difficult times the farming communities were enduring – including drought.

In hindsight, if the past councils had made minor adjustments to the rate base, the ratepayers now would not be looking at such a substantial rate rise.

So, a merger with Port Stephens council, what’s in it for the ratepayers?

Whilst I am not opposed to any amalgamations, I am yet to fully understand the outcome of this proposal with Port Stephens.

  •       We are advised by those lobbying for the amalgamation that there will be assistance with the Tourism industry. This is a broad statement but I would like to know what are the details behind this assistance – a bit of detail would be nice, and what dollars involved.
  •     Rate rises will be far less with amalgamation with Port Stephens – this is not telling me much at all – let’s try to get a bit of solid information behind the statement. We know the rates will rise.
  •    $15m from State Government to assist with merger costs and infrastructure backlog – do we have a commitment from State Government that this is indeed on the table? One suggestion to me is that it is not a definite commitment – let’s get it in writing and confirm the actual figure of the merger costs and a separate figure for infrastructure backlog.

So what do we know from the Port Stephens offer to amalgamate? The radio interview I heard with the Port Stephens mayor clearly indicated that they wanted to avoid the possibility of a merger with Newcastle Council as they would lose control of assets they owned in the Newcastle region.

The mayor clearly stated they wanted to amalgamate with Dungog as an “insurance policy” to avoid any future discussion of amalgamation with Newcastle.

Every insurance policy I have purchased has cost me money. How much money do the Port Stephens Council want to pay for this insurance policy?

 We need to see some financial details – what’s the benefit for the Dungog ratepayers - before taking on the policy.

I ask our current Council members to enter negotiations with the Port Stephens Council and let’s find out how much they want to pay for the “insurance policy”, and how much will it help to relieve the pressure on our rates.  Let’s see some figures on the table in writing.

HOLD FIRE: Clarence Town's Digby Rayward, above, believes Dungog shire residents need to see some financial details about the Port Stephens merger before committing.

HOLD FIRE: Clarence Town's Digby Rayward, above, believes Dungog shire residents need to see some financial details about the Port Stephens merger before committing.

Digby Rayward, Clarence Town                               

ASK PORT RATEPAYERS

As a Port Stephens ratepayer and one who has taken an active interest in Port Stephens Council for many years, Dungog community should be well and truly aware that the ratepayers of Port Stephens have not seriously been consulted about any merger with Dungog. 

Yes, there was huge opposition to Newcastle merger. But Dungog is quite different.  We have our own huge asset maintenance backlog and roads falling to pieces as well. We have a permanent pothole patch up team with little spent on actually fixing the roads properly.

Most of our toilet blocks in our highly used tourism area need a bulldozer through them.  We don’t have enough parks staff. The list goes on and on!

The Port Stephens Council “pot of gold” Dungog might be hearing about just does not exist.

Margaret Wilkinson, Corlette