SOMETIME, somewhere, there must be a city with an harmonious city hall. But wherever that place might be, it’s certainly not here in Newcastle, where the political differences between our elected councillorsseem to have again eclipsed whatever abilities they may possessto work together for the good of the region.
After months of simmering tensions behind the scenes, the Liberal Party’s Lisa Tierney has resignedwithout warning from the council, letting fly at Labor Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes on the way out the door.
As she did publicly in July last year, Ms Tierney accused Cr Nelmes of bullying behaviour. Then, as now, Cr Nelmes deniesthe allegations, and accusesher Liberal critics of being politically motivated.
For its part, the Office of Local Government has done nothing to help clarify the situation, and declinedto comment.
Only time will tell whether this spat acts as an effective pressure valve to easerecent tensions, or whether further accusations are traded across the political divide.
But whatever happens, the existing council is now just half a yearaway from going to the polls, with an election likely to be held in early September. Had it not been for the Coalition state government’s bungled local government mergers, an election would have been held last year.
By truncating the process the way she did, Mike Baird’s replacement as premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has allowed Newcastle City Council and its forced marriage partner, Port Stephens Council, to walk away from the altar with their relationship unconsummated. Their respective dignities intact, the two councils have been given a perhaps unexpected chance to prove the pro-amalgamation lobbywrong.
In Newcastle especially, the stakes are incredibly high. As the Newcastle Herald has repeatedly observed in this space, the Newcastle CBD is in the early stages of a make-or-break process of regeneration. This is not to ignore the rest of the region, or to put the inner city ahead of the needs of the bulk of the population, living in the suburbs.
But it is to say that now, with so much at stake, that Newcastle needs a council capable of strong and united leadership.
Those councillors wanting to stand again have the next few months to show they are worth re-electing. Because after September, we need acouncil prepared to leave its political differences at the door, and to govern for the greater good.
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