The State Government has set a time and date to begin debating over the legitimacy of a merger between Port Stephens and Newcastle Councils.

The debate will take place in NSW Parliament House on March 23

The debate will go ahead at 4.30pm on March 23rd after 10 000 concerned residents signed a petition shown to the Government.

It comes after months of fierce campaigning against the merger by Port Stephens Council, who were deemed Fit for the Future during an evaluation by IPART late last year.

Parliament had a similar debate surrounding two Council’s in Sydney, who were also opposed to the merger.

During the debate, Minister for Local Government, Paul Toole said the decisions were based on evidence that suggested the merger was appropriate.

But Port Stephens MP Kate Washington objected to the claims, later saying “these processes had been completely thrown out the window and seen boundaries drawn, like Port Stephens and Newcastle.”

Port Stephens Mayor Bruce MacKenzie said yesterday that a merger between Dungog and Port Stephens would be more appropriate, but Washington says Council has done to little to late.

“They should have been having these conversations earlier on in the process.

“Out Council had its head in the sand, thinking it was all fine.  But all along, the Government has been asking all Councils to have these discussions.”

But Washington is adamant the debate later this month will be an eye-opener for Premier Mike Baird.

“I know it’s gonna be a fiery Parliament on the 23rd of March.

“Its just an opportunity to bring it to the Premier’s doorstep, and to show him the extent to which our community is opposed to this merger.”

Image courtesy of Red Rubble (