Shellharbour Mayor Marianne Saliba said council mergers should be “the single biggest issue” for Gladys Berejiklian, calling for the incoming NSW Premier to take swift action during her first days in the job.
As the first female premier from the NSW Liberals was sworn in on Monday afternoon, a hopeful Cr Saliba said she thought Ms Berejiklian would be “capable, considered and approachable” as state leader.
“I think, with Gladys Berejiklian as Premier, commonsense on council mergers will prevail,” Cr Saliba said.
“It’s important now that all pending mergers halt, and it’s time for her to put her own stamp on the government.”
On Sunday, the Labor mayor joined with anti-merger campaigners from around the state, hosting a media conference outside NSW Parliament to call for all mergers to be dropped.
Cr Saliba said the mood of campaigners had been “buoyed” by Nationals Leader John Barilaro’s statement on Friday that he would end “uncertainty and anger” surrounding outstanding council mergers.
Meantime, the Illawarra’s three Labor MPs delivered a list of 11 local issues to the new Premier, seizing on reports she planned to “reset” ahead of the 2019 state election.
Dropping the Wollongong/Shellharbour merger was among their requests, as was reversal of the planned privatisation of Shellharbour hospital.
Lifts at Unanderra station, construction of the Albion Park Rail bypass, better connections to Sydney and an upgrade to WIN Entertainment Centre were highlighted as priorities. Protections for the steel industry – and a commitment to build rail carriages in Australia, not Korea –, new public sector jobs, West Dapto infrastructure and education investments rounded out the list.
“We have been fighting for the government to recognise the infrastructure needs of Wollongong and the region, and our joint letter outlines where we can all work together to ensure this region gets its fair share – we just need a premier who will listen and deliver,” Wollongong MP Paul Scully said.