Kiama council to seek reimbursement of 2016 plebiscite costs

Kiama resident Lisa Dewhurst at the Kiama Pavilion vote last year.
Kiama resident Lisa Dewhurst at the Kiama Pavilion vote last year.

Kiama council will seek to recoup the estimated $150,000 it spent on a council merger plebiscite. 

Last May, Kiama residents turned out in their thousands to formally vote on the state government’s plans at the time to merge Kiama and Shoalhaven councils.

The majority of Kiama councillors voted in favour of having the plebiscite, which attracted 8400 voters.

More than 95 per cent of those who took part in the non-binding ballot voted against the planned merger, which ultimately didn’t proceed. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, Kiama councillors supported Cr Matt Brown’s motion that council request the state government reimburse the Kiama community the cost of the plebiscite ($150,000), “which was essential in maintaining our independence from the NSW Government’s proposed amalgamation with the Shoalhaven City Council”.

At the meeting, Cr Brown claimed that, “we decided not to go through the court system… Other councils are recouping some of their costs in taking the government to court”.

“The forced amalgamation was forced upon us,” he said.

“It wasn’t our call, it was a bad fit. We objected to it and thought the best way to go about it was through the plebiscite.

“I don’t see why ratepayers of our municipality should be out of pocket to state the bleeding obvious, that we should not be amalgamated with the Shoalhaven.

“The money was paid to the State Electoral Commission, a branch of the NSW government. So they’ve got our money… they forced us to go to them to solve this problem, and they should simply give it back.”

Cr Neil Reilly said he believed council needed to “go into bat” for the community to see if they could “get this money back from a very stupid decision that was taken”. 

Parliamentary Secretary for the Illawarra and Kiama MP Gareth Ward said he “looked forward to seeing the representation” from Kiama council on the matter. 

“I have always supported Kiama council standing alone… I’m happy to look at Kiama council’s representation,” he said. 

Residents of the municipality are celebrating Kiama’s independence later this year. 

Kiama council recently unveiled details of its celebration of the anti-amalgamation campaign of 2016 via a speech and photo competition.

The Kiama Independence Day Speech Contest requires students from years 7 to 12 to submit a five-minute speech by Friday, April 21.

Eight finalists will be selected to speak at The Pavilion on Saturday, May 13 with the winning speaker awarded a trip for three to Vietnam.

The Kiama Independence Day Photographic Competition is open to all ages and has the theme of ‘Why I love Kiama’. Entries close April 21.

More details: www.kiama.nsw.gov.au.