Let Shellharbour residents vote on the merger, says Kiama MP Gareth Ward

Shellharbour residents at a public inquiry into the proposed merger with Wollongong City Council.

Shellharbour residents at a public inquiry into the proposed merger with Wollongong City Council.

The government should allow Shellharbour residents to vote on the proposed merger with Wollongong, said parliamentary secretary for the Illawarra Gareth Ward.

Also, he said the Local Government Act allowed for just such a vote.

Mr Ward was one of more than 30 speakers at a public inquiry held in Shellharbour before delegate Mike Allen.

Mr Allen will also attended inquiries in Wollongong and will take on the opinions voiced in a report he will write for government and the Boundaries Commission, which oversees local council borders.

Mr Ward called on Mr Allen to look at part of of the government’s own laws that allow for the issue of a merger to be put to a vote.

“I ask that you consider section 265 of the Act which allows for poll of the residents to be taken, should the Boundaries Commission wish to, so the Shellharbour residents get to have their say at the ballot box,” Mr Ward said.

“I would encourage you to consider section 265 of the act in order to ensure the community can have a democratic say in relation to the future of its community.”

Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba spoke on behalf of the council in opposing the merger.

She said the council had been positioning itself for a financially secure future with the development of the Shell Cove estate and marina.

“The dream of actual economic stability for this area is being realised,” Ms Saliba said.

She also claimed the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal report that deemed Shellharbour Council unfit for the future contained a calculation error in the waste management figures.

When that error was corrected, Ms Saliba claimed that the result was that the council was shown to be fit for the future.

Judging by audience response, the majority were opposed to the merger.

However, there were a number of those present who supported the merger with Wollongong.

One was long time Shellharbour resident Max Clay.

"The ratepayers of Shellharbour have been overlooked for years,” Mr Clay said.

“I believe that change is necessary.”

He also called for construction on the city hub to stop immediately.

Speaking against the merger, John Davey felt the residents were “the guinea pigs” in some government experiment.

He was concerned the merger would see Shellharbour swallowed up by Wollongong.

“In any merger there are victors and the vanquished,” Mr Davey said.

“We are one-third the size of Wolongong; we will be the vanquished.”

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