Deputy Premier, John Barilaro’s statement on Friday afternoon to put an end to the local government mergers in the bush was welcome new, but did nothing to stop the “uncertainty and anger in regional areas” as Mr Barilaro had promised.
After initially saying Dungog and Maitland were “not under the regional NSW banner” Mr Barilaro then provided clarification saying the Nationals would oppose that merger.
Mr Barilaro’s second backflip was good news for local residents, who have been strong and united and made their opposition to the proposed forced merger well known since it was first mooted.
A number of National Party Councillors in the Upper Hunter Council Areas are reported to have resigned due to forced council amalgamations. Member for Upper Hunter Mr Michael Johnsen has been quiet on the issue since he put forward the failed forced merger proposal of Dungog with Gloucester in January 2016.
Quotes attributable to Member for Maitland, Jenny Aitchison:
“Local residents are sick of the ongoing talk of the council amalgamations, it’s time that the Nationals started listening to their communities across the state.”
“I hope the Deputy Premier doesn’t do another backflip on this one.”
“Last year I was approached by members of the Dungog community who told me Mr Michael Johnsen, their locally elected Member for Upper Hunter refused to table their petition against the proposed Maitland Dungog merger.”
“The Upper Hunter Electorate is one of the most marginal and uncertain seats in the State. Mr Johnsen appears to be continuing to ignore the wishes of his community, just as he did with the rail truncation.”
“Rather than shopping Dungog around like a wallflower at a B&S Ball, he should have been working on a long term solution to the funding issues in Dungog Council and stop the State Government from cost shifting their expenses onto surrounding Councils.”
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