State Illawarra Labor MPs have today demanded the State Government refund Shellharbour City Council for all expenses relating to legal proceedings in the NSW Land and Environment Court and Kiama Municipal Council for the plebiscite last year against the forced amalgamation proposal.
The call comes after the Government’s backflip this week where it called off the forced amalgamation between Wollongong and Shellharbour City Councils.
Shellharbour Council invested $225,000 in legal proceedings to fight the Government’s proposal.
Kiama Council spent $125,000 on a plebiscite conducted in May 2016, which saw 95 per cent of those who took part oppose the proposed merger between it and Shoalhaven City Council.
The Government abandoned its proposal to force the Kiama Council amalgamation after the result.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra and South Coast, Gareth Ward MP who says he opposed the forced amalgamation of both Wollongong and Shellharbour Councils and Kiama and Shoalhaven Councils has failed to have the Government reimburse Kiama Council’s plebiscite costs 10 months later.
Yesterday, Mr Ward described the Government’s forced merger proposals for Wollongong and Shellharbour Councils as “it was a mongrel proposal from day one…”
The Illawarra Labor MPs have written to the Minister for Local Government, Gabrielle Upton MP with a request to compensate Shellharbour and Kiama Councils for costs involved in legal proceedings and the plebiscite.
Comments attributable to Ryan Park MP
“The Government’s backflip on Illawarra Council mergers has been a victory for common sense.
“The Government now has no choice but to reimburse Shellharbour and Kiama Councils for the costs involved in fighting the forced merger of their local communities.”
Comments attributable to Anna Watson MP
“Our local communities told the Government from day one that the forced merger of their local councils would not be supported.
“The Government should have listened to us all and Gareth Ward should have backed us in.”
Comments attributable to Paul Scully MP
“The Government lost its bet by back-flipping on the forced amalgamation of Wollongong, Shellharbour and Kiama Councils by forcing these communities to fight in court and at the ballot box.
“Natural justice should see the Government write a cheque to compensate the people of these Illawarra councils for starting an expensive fight the Government ultimately called off – it’s time to pay up. It’s only fair.”