Shellharbour council has lost its legal battle and could cease to exist from next week, but on Tuesday night councillors met to elect a mayor and deputy mayor for another year.
Mayor Marianne Saliba – who held on to her position by a vote of 4-3 – acknowledged that her new term “might be the shortest mayoral term” in the council’s history. However, she said councillors were compelled to go about their business as usual while the merger remains in limbo.
Councillors did not change their recent voting patterns, using a show of hands to elect Cr Saliba, who gained support from councillors John Murray, Paul Rankin, David Boyle.
She was nominated by Crs Murray and Rankin, while Peter Moran and Kellie Marsh nominated Cr Moran.
Labor’s Cr Murray was elected as the council’s deputy mayor, winning the vote 4-3 against Cr Moran.
Regarding the Land and Environment Court’s decision, Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said he was “not surprised” Shellharbour has lost its case.
He urged the southern councillors to seek sound legal advice before lodging an appeal, noting any further legal action would “delay the inevitable” merger.
Cr Bradbery – who is running for state parliament at the November byelection but remains Lord Mayor for now – said he and other councillors “had no other option” but to continue as usual until the merger situation was resolved.
“We have two councils that need to continue to service their community, so we have no other option to continue business as usual,” he said.
“But this is now dragging on, and it’s putting everything at both councils on hold and impeding our planning processes for the next financial year and beyond.”