Newcastle and Lake Macquarie council merger recommended in local government review to cut costs

AN independent review into local government has recommended merging some Hunter councils.

The review, released last week by Local Government Minister Don Page, proposed a complete overhaul of local government, including rate rises and changes to council boundaries.

As part of the reconfiguration, Newcastle and Lake Macquarie councils would be amalgamated to create a "super council" for 390,000 residents.

However, both mayors have argued against it.

Newcastle lord mayor Jeff McCloy said "sometimes bigger can just mean more bureaucratic, and we're flat out running and changing Newcastle at the moment."

In the merger, Newcastle would lose Beresfield to Maitland council.

Lake Macquarie mayor Jodie Harrison said the move "wasn't in the best interests" of residents, having considered the possibility already.

She said there was no evidence to suggest merging the two councils would change either's financial situation.

As it stands, Newcastle council faces a financial struggle to keep up with infrastructure works, while Lake Macquarie council is in a moderate to neutral position.

The review also recommended shifting Morisset and Cooranbong from Lake Macquarie to Wyong Shire council.

LAKE Macquarie councillor Robert Denton has urged people not to panic about a plan to merge Lake Macquarie and Newcastle councils, and instead sign a petition to oppose it.

Cr Denton said he would create a petition in a bid to collect 10,000 signatures against the plan.

He believes the petition will go viral.

Once the signatures have been collected, the matter will be discussed in NSW Parliament.

Premier Barry O'Farrell has guaranteed to debate any issue that attracts 10,000 signatures.

Cr Denton said he hoped the petition would send a strong message.

"If we get 10,000 signatures and a debate is held, they will hear clearly that the people of Lake Macquarie do not want a merger," Cr Denton said.

"It'll be a no-brainer from there."

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