Why has the State Government proposed that Lake Macquarie remain a stand-alone council?

As Council has stated in numerous submissions throughout the Fit for the Future process, it is providing good-quality daily services to its 202,000 residents, and has the strategies in place to continue to be a sustainable and efficient Council. Council is pleased this has been confirmed by the Government’s proposal.


Will there be any other changes to Lake Macquarie City Council as part of the local government reform?

Council is committed to further improving our services.

Council will undertake the Fit for the Future Improvement Program, prepared by the NSW Government, as part of the process, and will work with the residents of Lake Macquarie to continually improve the way it delivers the daily services they expect and rely on.

How will this decision affect me?

Irrespective of NSW Government reforms, Lake Macquarie City Council regularly reviews its activities to ensure they meet the changing needs of the community. This approach will continue as the organisation works to remain one of the state’s most efficient Councils.


Where can I find out more information?

If you have any further questions you can call 0249 210 333 or email council@lakemac.nsw.gov.au . Alternatively, you can join an online discussion by going to haveyoursaylakemac.com.au/our-fit-future


Why is Council opposed to an amalgamation with Newcastle City Council?

Financial analysis conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers indicates that a merger of Lake Macquarie and Newcastle was more expensive for Lake Macquarie residents than either merging with north Wyong or standing alone.

Independent survey results, backed up by regular community engagement, found that 87 per cent of residents do not support a merger with Newcastle City Council.

Newcastle is a CBD with industrial roots and urban environment, very different from Lake Macquarie’s mix of rural, semi-rural and village design. Navigating service delivery across an incredibly diverse council area of 350,000 residents is not in the best interest of residents.

Newcastle City Council also selected the regional solution as its preferred model, including a full amalgamation with Port Stephens, at an Extraordinary Meeting held on Tuesday 17 November.


Is a merger with North Wyong the best option for Lake Macquarie residents?

Council has held discussions with a number of community leaders in a bid to allow Lake Macquarie to retain its identity and high-level service delivery, while also adhering to the wishes of the NSW Government.

A merger with north Wyong will allow Lake Macquarie City Council to maintain cost-effective and continuous service delivery to residents in these communities.

Gosford Council has also resolved to selected this merger option as its second preference. 


What happens next?

The NSW Government will review all Council submissions and is expected to make an announcement before the end of the year.

Lake Macquarie City Council is committed to keeping the community informed throughout the process, with regular statements, to be issued as appropriate and published on our website, www.lakemac.com.au.


What has IPART recommended for Lake Macquarie City Council as part of the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future program?

As part of the NSW Government’s Fit for the Future program, the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) has recommended that Lake Macquarie and Newcastle city councils become one organisation.

The recommendation to amalgamate comes after a lengthy State Government decision-making process, despite Lake Macquarie City Council’s submission to IPART outlining the reasons it was fit to stand alone.

In 2013, the Independent Local Government Review Panel identified a merger of Lake Macquarie and Newcastle city councils as an option for change in local government in the Hunter.





What will Council do following these recommendations from IPART?

Council will look closely at the IPART report and provide feedback to the Government by 18 November.





If the NSW Government accepts IPART’s recommendation to amalgamate, how long will it take?

It is Council’s belief that due to the challenges and complexities involved in joining two organisations, any transition phase may take some time.

The Office of Local Government has previously stated that it expects amalgamations to be in place before the next local government elections in September 2016.

Lake Macquarie City Council is committed to keeping its community informed throughout the process, with regular statements to be issued as appropriate, published on its website and answered over the phone on 4921 0333 or by email to council@lakemac.nsw.gov.au



Who will lead the change if the NSW Government accepts IPART’s recommendations?

If the decision by IPART to amalgamate the councils is confirmed, under the direction of the NSW Government, Lake Macquarie City Council would work closely with Newcastle and the communities of both areas to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.





Will my rates increase?

As IPART has only recommended to the State Government that Lake Macquarie City Council amalgamate with Newcastle City Council, rates would only need to be reviewed following an amalgamation process to ensure charges are consistent and equitable across a newly formed local government area.





How will this decision impact me?

As IPART has only made a recommendation to the State Government that Lake Macquarie City Council amalgamate with Newcastle City Council, it is too early to tell what the implications of this amalgamation will be in the longer term.

Lake Macquarie City Council will keep its community informed throughout the process, with regular statements to be issued as appropriate and answer questions over the phone on 4921 0333 or by email council@lakemac.nsw.gov.au 

During the transition period, continue to contact your current Council until you are informed otherwise.





What services will change or how will Council’s level of service change?

As IPART has only made a recommendation to the State Government that Lake Macquarie City Council amalgamate with Newcastle City Council, it is too early to tell what changes or improvements will occur as a result of this change.

Council’s priority is to ensure there is as little adverse impact on residents as possible, and that we continue to improve on delivering facilities and services for the benefit of the community.





Who are my councillors now? (Will there be a bi-election?)

This recommendation by IPART to amalgamate Lake Macquarie and Newcastle city councils does not affect your local representation. You can stay in contact with your current councillors.

It is anticipated that any changes would be in place in time for the next local government elections in September 2016. After this election, a newly formed local government area would have its own councillors who will represent you. 





My family/friend works at Council. Will they lose their job?

Council employees have three years of employment certainty under the Local Government Act no matter what IPART recommended or the Government eventually decides.

While it is too early to tell what the implications of any changes will be in the longer term, Lake Macquarie City Council will be committed to working with the collective staffs of both organisations and our combined residents as we begin the process of sharing a future together.





If I need to contact Council, should I call Lake Macquarie or Newcastle?

As we enter into the transition phase of amalgamating, stay in contact with your current council.

If you have any questions, you can contact Lake Macquarie City Council on 4921 0333 or email council@lakemac.nsw.gov.au.





Where can I get more information?

Call 02 4921 0333 or email council@lakemac.nsw.gov.au and you can add your thoughts to a discussion forum at www.haveyoursaylakemac.com.au/our-fit-future.



What is the regional solution model?

The regional solution model was the brainchild of State Member for Lake Macquarie, Greg Piper, and has been supported by both Lake Macquarie and Newcastle city councils.

Both councils have named the model as their preferred Fit for the Future option in final submissions to the Government.

It is a plan to merge five current council areas into three comparable ‘super councils’.

These merged council areas would include Gosford / south Wyong, Lake Macquarie / north Wyong and Newcastle / Port Stephens.

The model creates council areas with comparable demographic, environmental and service-delivery requirements.





Q: What has Council resolved to do?

Following an Extraordinary Meeting on Monday 16 November, Lake Macquarie City Council acknowledged that continuing as a stand-alone council is not an option acceptable to the NSW Government. Council has resolved to submit a preference for an amalgamation of Gosford, Wyong and Lake Macquarie councils into two expanded Gosford and Lake Macquarie councils. The precise boundary between the two new councils would be determined following community consultation.

This resolution is consistent with the regional solution proposed by Greg Piper MP, Member for Lake Macquarie.


What have other Hunter Coast and Central Coast councils resolved to do?

Newcastle City Council has resolved not to merge with Lake Macquarie City Council and to identify Port Stephens as its first and only merger preference.

Gosford City Council has resolved to prefer a merger with Wyong as its first preference and an expansion north into Wyong (to meet a southern expansion of Lake Macquarie) as its second preference.

Wyong Shire Council has resolved to merge with Gosford as its first preference and to merge with Gosford and expand north into southern Lake Macquarie as its second preference.

Port Stephens Council has resolved to stand alone.

Why has Council accepted that a stand-alone council is not an option?

The NSW Government requested that councils consider IPART’s findings and identify their top three merger preferences.

IPART’s report indicates that Lake Macquarie City Council does not have sufficient scale and capacity to stand-alone, compared to an amalgamation with Newcastle City Council.

Council is opposed to an amalgamation with Newcastle City Council as it would not be in the best interest of Lake Macquarie residents. 

Council believes that by putting forward an alternative, and indicating its willingness to participate in the process, a forced merger with Newcastle is less likely.


What is Fit for the Future?

In September 2014, the State Government announced a reform program called Fit for the Future which requires all NSW councils (except in the State’s central west) to submit a proposal by June 30 2015 outlining how they will become “fit for the future”.

These reforms were developed in response to a Local Government Independent Review Panel, which developed a range of recommendations for reform.

Councils wanted to be strong, sustainable and to continue to make a positive difference in their community, but there were various views as to how this could be achieved. It was agreed that change was needed, so the local government sector asked the State Government to appoint an independent expert to carry out a review.

In late October 2014, the Government released the benchmarks that councils must meet in order to demonstrate that they are fit for the future. Council has submitted a proposal to stand alone. You can read this submission on IPART's website at: www.ipart.nsw.gov.au/Home/Industries/Local_Govt/


 

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What did the Fit for the Future program recommend for Lake Macquarie City Council?

The Fit for the Future program identified that Lake Macquarie City Council and Newcastle City Council either consider amalgamation or undertake the Council Improvement Program to stand alone.

What was Lake Macquarie City Council’s position?

Council submitted its response to Fit for the Future as intending to stand alone with a clear path towards even greater sustainability. You can read Council's submission on the IPART website at: www.ipart.nsw.gov.au/Home/Industries/Local_Govt/

 

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What benchmarks did Council need to meet to be Fit for the Future?

The current position of every council in NSW has been assessed against benchmarks contained in the Fit for the Future program. 

The benchmarks measured a council’s performance across three broad categories:

  • sustainability;
  • effective infrastructure and service management; and
  • efficiency.

For each category, there are a number of financial benchmarks, which measure operating performance and revenue, debt, the cost of renewing and maintaining assets and operating costs over time. 

Council also showed it has the scale and capacity consistent with the recommendations of the Independent Review Panel.

Why did Council undertake community consultation?

Lake Macquarie City Council engaged the community to help us understand what it wants for the future of our City. Your views are important and helped shape Council's decision. 

Fit for the Future also required councils to undertake extensive community consultation with their local residents and ratepayers prior to formulating a proposal. Council's consultation program is consistent with the State Government's requirements.

How can I be involved?

We encourage you to visit the dedicated website www.haveyoursaylakemac.com.au/our-fit-future and sign in to stay updated or register to be involved in any of the community consultation activities.



When will amalgamations happen?

The Government has indicated that Transitional Committees would be established in October 2015 to oversee the establishment of any new council areas in time for the September 2016 local government elections.

Would amalgamations result in a rates rise or a change to services?

If Lake Macquarie City Council were to stand alone, it would be required to find approximately $4 million in additional revenue each year to meet the Government’s criteria. Council is investigating ways to raise the additional funds.

In standing alone, the additional $4 million of revenue could come in the form of changes to the way services are delivered, including the possible reduction of some services and modest increases in rates for businesses and residents. All councils across NSW will be faced with this same dilemma, as would any amalgamated councils because they would face the same budget and revenue challenges as stand-alone councils.