Four Hunter councils remain in limbo despite the state’s announcement it will form 19 new councils across the state through amalgamations.
Newcastle, Port Stephens, Maitland and Dungog are yet to discover their fate while Gloucester is listed among those disappearing into new entities.
Gloucester, Greater Taree and Great Lakes councils will merge into a Mid-Coast Council.
Administrators and interim general managers have been appointed to each of the new councils, which will hold their elections until September next year - 12 months later than those not being merged.
Local Government Minister Paul Toole said it would be business as usual for residents in new council areas, with services operating as normal.
Each new council will receive up to $10 million to meet the costs of merging, plus up to $15 million for investment in new community infrastructure.
"New councils and their communities will decide how to spend their community funds," Mr Toole said.
"Projects could include pools, libraries, sporting fields, car park expansions or grants to junior sporting groups."
A review of the merged councils would be conducted in four years.
Mr Toole said he was awaiting a report into Port Stephens Council’s plans to merge with Dungog before making a decision.
The proposal to merge Maitland and Dungog was referred for examination in March, two months after proposals were submitted for Dungog and Gloucester’s union and unification of Port Stephens and Newcastle.
“The delegate was supportive of both the Newcastle and Port Stephens merger, and the Maitland and Dungog merger,” Mr Toole said.
“However, it is clear from the report that the community of Port Stephens is concerned about the potential impact of the merger.”
“Given this, it is appropriate to wait for work on the Port Stephens Council alternative proposal to merge with Dungog Shire to be completed, and for the community to have a say on this option, before a final decision is made.”
The examination of the Port Stephens Council proposal is understood to be in its early stages.
“I recognise that this prolongs the uncertainty for these communities, in particular from Dungog Shire Council, the subject of three merger proposals, but the Government is committed to getting it right,” Mr Toole said.
Port Stephens mayor Bruce MacKenzie appealed to residents in his area to back the Dungog merger proposal after the government left the door ajar for his council to avoid a merger with Newcastle.
“Write submissions, speak at public inquiries. Make your voice heard – it's the only way,” Cr MacKenzie said.
"The choice for the people of Port Stephens is now clear – it's either Dungog, or Newcastle."
Cr MacKenzie said he was amazed the Newcastle option remained alive despite its rejection by 18,000 residents.
“I am incredibly disappointed with today's events. The government had a golden opportunity to listen to the will of the people and to take an extraordinarily unpopular proposal off the table, once and for all. They bottled it.
"The proposals taken off the table are purely political decisions.
Written submissions can be made at olg.councilboundaryreview.nsw.gov.au/proposals/port-stephen-and-dungog-shire-councils.
Cr MacKenzie said Thursday’s decision made the mergers an issue in the approach to July 2’s federal poll.
"Taking Newcastle off the table would have been the ultimate gift from the state Liberals to their federal counterparts. It would have resonated with a disenfranchised supporter base in a seat that is looking increasingly difficult to retain,” Cr MacKenzie said.
"My only piece of advice to the Liberal party is this: It is not too late.”
"Regardless of the outcome of the Dungog public inquiry, take Newcastle off the table and retaining Paterson is not an impossible dream."
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington asked Mr Toole to cut the Newcastle-Port Stephens merger out of debate completely.
“This process has been a complete dog’s breakfast, now it's become a political farce,” she said.
“The Port Stephens/Newcastle merger should have been entirely ruled out. Instead, the Baird government has delayed making any decision at all, leaving everyone completely at a loss as to what's going on.
“This whole process reeks of politics at play, where we won't see any decision until after the federal election.”
- with Matt Carr
The minister has announced that he will proceed with the formation of the following councils:
Armidale Regional Council (Armidale, Dumaresq and Guyra)
Canterbury-Bankstown Council (Bankstown and Canterbury)
Central Coast Council (Gosford and Wyong)
City of Parramatta Council (Parramatta and part of Hills, Auburn, Holroyd and Hornsby)
Cumberland Council (Auburn and Holroyd)
Edward River Council (Conargo and Deniliquin)
Federation Council (Corowa and Urana)
Georges River Council (Hurstville and Kogarah)
Gundagai Council (Cootamundra and Gundagai)
Snowy Monaro Regional Council (Bombala, Cooma Monaro and Snowy River)
Hilltops Council (Boorowa, Harden and Young)
Inner West Council (Ashfield, Leichhardt and Marrickville)
Mid-Coast Council (Gloucester, Great Lakes and Greater Taree)
Murray River Council (Murray and Wakool)
Murrumbidgee Council (Jerilderie and Murrumbidgee)
Northern Beaches Council (Manly, Pittwater and Warringah)
Queanbeyan-Palerange Regional Council (Queanbeyan and Palerang)
Snowy Valleys Council (Tumut and Tumbarumba)
Western Plains Regional Council (Dubbo and Wellington)
Subject to the decisions of the courts, the Minister has announced his in-principle support for the following mergers
Botany and Rockdale
Randwick, Waverley and Woollahra
Bathurst and Oberon
Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby
Mosman, North Sydney and Willoughby
Blayney, Cabonne and Orange
Hunters Hill, Lane Cove and Ryde
Burwood, Canada Bay and Strathfield
Shellharbour and Wollongong
Merger proposals pending
Newcastle and Port Stephens
Dungog and Maitland
Armidale-Dumaresq, Guyra, Walcha and Uralla
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