A Port Stephens councillor’s comment that a merger with Dungog could their ticket out of jail has angered Dungog Mayor Harold Johnston.
Port Stephens Council will lodge a formal request with the Minister for Local Government Paul Toole to consider a merger with Dungog Shire.
The application, under the Local Government Act, asks that Mr Toole refer a merger with Dungog Council, in part or whole, to the Boundaries Commission.
Clarence Town has already asked the government to consider making it part of Port Stephens.
Port Stephens' councillors supported the idea unanimously during a mayoral minute last Tuesday night as an alternative to a merger with Newcastle.
Fairfax Media reported last week that Port Stephens Councillor John Nell referred to a possible merger with Dungog as Port Stephens’ “ticket out of jail”.
Cr Johnston said the comment summed up what Port Stephens really thought about Dungog.
"They don't care about Dungog and our community, they are only looking after themselves," he said.
"They are just using us because they don't want to merge with Newcastle.
"It worries me [about] what is going to happen as I just want the best for this community.
"Whether we stand alone, merge with Maitland or Port Stephens, we will still need a bucket of money to be spent in the Dungog Shire.
"Maitland and Port Stephens residents won't want to spend money in our shire so the state government will need to have a bucket of it to be used here."
The application, under section 218E and 218F, would require a survey of electors in Port Stephens and Dungog, through public meetings and postal surveys, for example.
If Port Stephens’ application is successful, it would put an end to the Dungog-Maitland merger option.
While Port Stephens councillors supported the possibility of a merger with Dungog, they agreed that it was their first preference to stand alone.
If not allowed to do so, they will press their case for the Dungog option.
"Although a merger with Dungog will still carry a cost for the people of Port Stephens, it is significantly less than the estimated costs associated with a merger with Newcastle City Council,” Port Stephens Mayor Bruce MacKenzie said in a statement after last week’s council meeting.