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Wollongong MP Noreen Hay has dismissed speculation she would run for lord mayor of a merged Wollongong-Shellharbour council and ditch her parliamentary position if successful.
A Labor source told the Mercury of Ms Hay’s intention, which they claimed would provoke an explosive reaction within her party and across the community.
According to the source, Ms Hay had reportedly discussed a preference deal with “prominent Liberal Party identities in the Illawarra”.
It was understood her supporters believed she had the numbers to pull off a Labor preselection victory, particularly if the state government’s controversial plan to merge the councils went ahead.
Ms Hay refuted the preference deal idea, describing it as “absolute rubbish”, and said she had no plan to leave Macquarie Street.
“I’m very happy being the Member for Wollongong. At this stage, I haven’t considered anything else whatsoever and I’m concentrating on doing a good job for the people who put me into the NSW Parliament,” she said.
The source said Shellharbour mayor Marianne Saliba and Wollongong Labor councillors Chris Connor, Ann Martin and David Brown also had mayoral hopes.
A deal for Cr Saliba to become deputy lord mayor was also rumoured. However, she denied any knowledge of Ms Hay’s mayoral aspiration when asked by the Mercury.
Despite being vehemently against her council being merged, Cr Saliba had no reservations about putting her hand up for mayor of the potential new body.
“I’m not about to back away from my commitment to the people of Shellharbour,” she said.
“If that means me running for the new mayoral position, of a new city, I would have no problem at all in doing that.
“I’d have to go through a preselection process anyway, so that’s a decision for my party.”
Cr Connor, a lord mayoral candidate at the most-recent council election, could also be in contention. “I’m considering seeking preselection for that position at the next council election for whatever council that’ll be,” he said.
Councillors Brown and Martin dismissed the idea.
“There’s no point wasting any energy on such discussion until we get near it,” Cr Brown said. “It’s not something I’ve spent a single third of a second thinking about.”
Under laws introduced in 2012, if Ms Hay was successful she would have to resign as MP prior to the first meeting of a merged council.
Ms Hay couldn’t say who was behind the rumours, adding her own bit of speculation to the mix. “There are those [people] ... who continue to try and drag me into things that basically I haven’t been involved in,” she said.