State Illawarra Labor MPs have today congratulated “people power” for standing up to the stubbornness of the Berejikilian Government after its enormous backflip on the forced merger of Wollongong and Shellharbour City Councils.

The people of Wollongong and Shellharbour local government areas made clear their strong opposition to the Government’s forced council amalgamation plans from the first day it was dropped on them on Friday, 18 December 2015.

Local Labor MPs Ryan Park, Anna Watson and Paul Scully joined the community in their strong opposition to the Government’s forced merger plans over the last 12 months.

Hundreds of residents in Wollongong and Shellharbour LGAs participated in the public inquiry process, made submissions, gathered a 6000 signatory petition tabled in the Legislative Assembly, and held street protests ensuring the Government was aware of the strength of feeling against the merger proposal.

The Labor MPs slammed Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra, Gareth Ward MP, for failing to lift a finger over the last 12 months to support the Wollongong and Shellharbour local community in its fight against the forced merger within the Government.

Mr Ward is on the public record calling on Shellharbour Council to drop its legal action against the Government in the NSW Land and Environment Court and just last week said concerns over the issue were only a concern among the ‘glitterati’.

The MPs also noted the Lord Mayor of Wollongong City Council, Gordon Bradbery was lukewarm in his opposition to the merger plan including suggestions that “there’s no political advantage for the government in letting us off the hook.”

Comments attributable to Ryan Park MP:

“This is yet another enormous policy backflip by a Government which stubbornly refused to listen to our local communities for over a year now.

“Gareth Ward has a lot to answer for on this issue: his so-called ‘opposition’ to the force the merger of Wollongong and Shellharbour Councils by his own Government was always lukewarm from the start.”

Comments attributable to Anna Watson MP:

“I’m very pleased with the Government’s back flip after more than a year of fighting this forced merger and the Shellharbour Mayor, Marianne Saliba deserves recognition for not taking a backward step in this campaign.

“We had one hand tied behind our backs in this fight from day one because of a lack of support by Gareth Ward.  He saved Kiama Council from a forced merger but did nothing else to help save Shellharbour Council from the same fate.”

Comments attributable to Paul Scully MP:

“This is a great victory for people power against an arrogant ‘glitterati’ Government which has ignored our local communities in this fight against the forced merger of their two councils.

“People power has knocked over a succession of arrogant decisions. All we need now is for the Government to listen and back-flip on its opposition to supporting our steel industry and its plans to gut Port Kembla Hospital.”


14 February 2017