Most Maitland councillors have welcomed the State’s decision to quash its plan to merge Maitland and Dungog councils however two civic leaders have called for a boundary review.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Tuesday afternoon that council mergers in regional NSW would not go ahead, but the government would press on with its amalgamation agenda in Sydney.
It means merger proposals involving Maitland, Dungog, Port Stephens and Newcastle have been taken off the table.
Maitland Mayor Peter Blackmore and fellow councillors Arch Humphery and Peter Garnham said their major concern now was Dungog’s future and its $42 million infrastructure debt.
“No forced mergers is the first step in achieving a commonsense solution to the difficulties that have been created by historically poor boundary location for Maitland, Dungog and Port Stephens,” Cr Humphery said.
“There is the debt Dungog Council has with its infrastructure, $42 million, with no mention who will carry that debt.
“The commonsense solution should be achieved by a Boundary Commission investigation and consultation within the total area then a recommendation to government based on commonsense and communication, not parochialism.”
Cr Garnham said he too would like to see a review of boundaries. “Something really needs to be done to help Dungog and perhaps boundary changes are the answer. I’d like to see a discussion about this,” Cr Garnham said.
Cr Philip Penfold said he was happy for the residents and ratepayers of Maitland that common sense prevailed and that Maitland would now stand alone. “Funds raised locally will now be spent locally on plans which can proceed now with confidence,” he said.
Cr Nicole Penfold said the merger decision was a great outcome for Maitland. “I look forward to recontesting to be part of the next council after September 9,” she said.
Cr Henry Meskauskas said commonsense had prevailed. “The merger would have had many problems, employees, maintenance and increasing rates.”