Newcastle City Council last night conceded that if a merger was inevitable their preference would be a merger with Port Stephens City Council.
Newcastle Lord Mayor NUATALI NELMES said Newcastle City Council met all of the financial and sustainability criteria and we should continue to be a regional leader for the Hunter.
"We do however recognise that we need to be part of the conversation and provide guidance to the NSW Government about what we consider to be best for both the Newcastle community and the wider Hunter region."
"We need good regional solutions to provide great services for our community. By exploring a range of options including boundary adjustments and alternate merger options we are sending a clear message that we know and understand our community and we are prepared investigate all avenues to get the best outcome for the people of Newcastle.
"After robust discussion, we have agreed that if a merger is inevitable our preference is to merge with Port Stephens Council as our regions have similar demographic profiles and we would be able to create a global city, encompassing port, airport, defence, university, industrial and health hubs."
The full resolution is outlined below
1. Council receives this report and notes that the NSW Government requires all Council to identify their merger preference with neighbouring regardless of whether they are deemed 'fit'.
2. Council preference is to remain a stand-alone council; and opposes a merger of Lake Macquarie and Newcastle City Councils.
3. If Council was to merge our preference be for a merger with Port Stephens Council (PSC); which would be part of a regional solution with similar demographic profiles by creating Tier 2 Global City, encompassing port, airport, defence, university, industrial and health hubs.
4. Council delegates authority to the Interim Chief Executive Officer to respond on Council's behalf to the NSW State Government by 18 November 2015, regarding the following matters, via an online template in the required format:
a. Feedback on IPARTs assessment of the Council's Fit for Future submission as follows:
"Newcastle City Council meets all of the FftF financial criteria and believes the methodology used to assess the Scale and Capacity criterion was flawed and refutes IPART's assessment that it is not fit. NCC remains committed to maintaining its long-term financial sustainability and serving the community as a stand-alone council, with second preference to merge with Port Stephens Council"
b. Council's first preferred merger partner is Port Stephens Council. All other preference boxes are to remain blank.
c. Comments on the preference:
"Council's second preference is to be the lead Council for a merger with Port Stephens Council. This merger will be part of a regional solution with similar demographic profiles by creating a Tier 2 Global City delivering required scale and capacity, while maximizing port, airport, defence, university, industrial and health hubs"
5. That the Lord Mayor and Interim Chief Executive Officer write jointly to the Premier and Minister for Local Government requesting that Council remain eligible for $20 million of merging funds, given the cooperative regional leadership shown in undertaking its obligations to consult with neighbouring Councils and to proposed amalgamation preferences.
Council also noted that Fit for the Future process was flawed due to
- no evidence-based case has made to show that the residents of Newcastle would benefit from a merger with any other council,
- sufficient time has not been made available to council to properly investigate possible mergers with neighbouring council,
- no mutually acceptable framework exists to process discussions between councils.