MEDIA RELEASE - Statement on local government amalgamations


Yesterday's announcement of the Berejiklian Barilaro backflip on local government amalgamations is a fitting chaotic cap to a botched process which has featured a total lack of regard for local communities.

While I welcome the announcement that will allow local councils to make their own decision on proposed council amalgamations, I am disgusted with the lack of respect for our communities and the Government’s lack of consultation over the council mergers process.

This afternoon after media reports highlighted the confusion about the application of the government's latest local government policy for Maitland and Dungog council, I spoke with the Mayor of Maitland Councillor Peter Blackmore OAM and a number of other Maitland Councillors.

The bottom line is that Maitland Council was always fit for the future. It was never fair of the Government to cost shift to Maitland to provide infrastructure for Dungog.

Maitland citizens have gone through the pain of a seven year rate increase to ensure the adequate infrastructure needs for our growing city. The Government's forced council merger proposals included a rate freeze and a measly $5 million to cover an infrastructure backlog in Dungog of many tens of millions of dollars.

This evening I met with Deputy Premier, the Hon John Barilaro to seek clarification on the position of Maitland and Dungog after the Government's failure to consult with them.

The good news is that for Maitland and Dungog Councils, is that the Deputy Premier has assured me, Maitland and Dungog will no longer be forced to merge and that any voluntary process will include an incentive and must be mutual. If the Councils choose to stand alone, the Deputy Premier said the Government will need to assist Dungog Council to get them in a financial position for them to survive.

While I welcome this clarification, it is disappointing that it has taken well over a year of uncertainty and pigheadedness on the behalf of the Liberal National Government to get to this position on this issue.

Quotes attributable to Member for Maitland, Jenny Aitchison:

“Local residents are sick of the ongoing talk of the council amalgamations.”

“Tuesday’s announcement shows just how shambolic and chaotic this Liberal National Party Government has been for the Maitland community.”

“So much time and energy have been lost with the ongoing talk of council amalgamations”

“Maitland residents have been in limbo for over 12months and stripped of their democratic rights when they were denied the opportunity to vote at the last Local Government elections.”

“I thank our local government workers, the Mayor, the General Manager and Councillors who have been continuing to work under the shadow of a forced merger proposal, with all the uncertainty that brings. It has been a demoralising and difficult time for all of them. I thank them for their commitment to our community.”

“I’m pleased that Maitland and Dungog Councils will be able to decide for themselves what is best for their future.”

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