Embattled NSW Premier Mike Baird will make a rare visit to Wollongong next week, to speak as a guest in one of the council areas he hopes to wipe out through a merger.
Mr Baird will on Monday address hundreds of councillors from around the state at the annual Local Government NSW conference, which is being held at WIN Entertainment Centre from Sunday to Tuesday.
It will be one of his first official engagements – if not the first – in the city since he became Premier.
Last August, he made a flying stop in town to eat a burger at His Boy Elroy on his return from Kiama MP Gareth Ward’s territory in Gerringong. Before that – in June 2014 – he dropped in to Albion Park Rail (in Shellharbour LGA) to ride a go-kart.
According to Illawarra Mercury records, Mr Baird last graced Wollongong with his presence for an official event in May 2013, when – as Treasurer – he was in town to talk about the lease of Port Kembla.
Wollongong Lord Mayor – and upcoming byelection candidate – Gordon Bradbery said Mr Baird may face a hostile crowd in the wake of his government’s controversial council amalgamations.
“I think he was anticipating having a merged council, and might be facing a bit of cold reception from some quarters,” Cr Bradbery said.
He doubted Mr Baird would back down on the Wollongong-Shellharbour merger, despite a turn around on greyhounds and sharks this week, as it would “reinforce the public perception that this government is flip-flopping all over the place.”
Cr Bradbery said he would seize the chance to “get in the ear” of the Premier while he’s in Wollongong, asking him to consider funding a revamp of the entertainment centre, upgrades to Wollongong harbour and funding for transport projects like Mount Ousley and Bulli Pass.
“I think it’s going to be a very interesting conference – not only with the merger issue. It’s located in Wollongong with a byelection coming up, it’s in a facility that’s a tired state government asset that needs to be refurbished,” he said.
“I don’t want his endorsement, or anyone’s endorsement. I’m an independent and will remain that way. I just want delivery on the projects that are going to benefit the people on the city, thank you.”
Local Government minister Paul Toole will speak at the conference on Tuesday, along with his Labor counterpart Peter Primrose.