HUNTER COUNCIL MERGERS DOG’S BREAKFAST MUST BE FIXED

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The State Opposition is calling on the new Premier Gladys Berejiklian to end the “dog’s breakfast” of forced council mergers in the Hunter, with reports of disunity on the issue amongst her senior colleagues.

The Government’s failed policy of forced council mergers has caused great anger in the Hunter community and resulted in a split between the Premier and her Deputy, Nationals Leader John Barilaro. 

Leaks from within the Liberal-Nationals caucus have flamed media reports that the Government will back-flip on council mergers that have not gone ahead. Today, NSW Labor is demanding clarity for communities on the issue.

Currently, merger proposals are pending in Dungog, Maitland, Port Stephens and Newcastle.

Council mergers were first announced over 12 months ago however a final decision has stalled, leaving Councils unable to replace outgoing staff or make significant planning decisions for their regions.

Upper House Liberal Member Catherine Cusack has even gone as far to say the “yet-to-be finalised council amalgamations were a handbrake on the region's growth”.

NSW Labor is calling on the Premier to immediately cease forcibly merging any councils, allow them to proceed to elections in September this year and allow forcibly merged councils the opportunity to hold plebiscites for voluntary demergers.

Quotes Attributable to Opposition Leader Luke Foley

“This is a Government at war with itself; we see leaks from Ms Berejiklian’s most senior colleagues, designed to force her hand.

“This is a rotten, hated policy and the onus is on the Premier and her Deputy to now to come up with one policy and not the several they have now.

“Council elections must be held this year so the community can exercise its democratic right to choose who represents them.”

Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for the Hunter Kate Washington

“It’s not too late for the new Premier to call a halt to plans to forcibly merge Hunter councils.

“The forced Council mergers have been a dog’s breakfast from the very beginning. It's time to abandon the Hunter amalgamations and restore our democratic right to choose who represents us.”