Thousands of Kiama residents say "no" to merger in poll

Kiama residents have turned out in their thousands to formally vote on the NSW Government-?s plans to merge Kiama and Shoalhaven councils.

The plebiscite, held on Saturday at a cost of $120,000 to the community, attracted 8400 voters (including 3000 pre-poll votes).

The number represents half of the 16,826 enrolled voters within the municipality.

More than 95 per cent of those who took part in the ballot voted against the planned merger.

Mayor Brian Petschler applauded the turnout and strong result, declaring the vote a -?real demonstration of community strength-?.

-?This is an outstanding result for a voluntary poll and sends a clear message to the NSW government that it should not proceed with this forced amalgamation with Shoalhaven Council,-? he said.

-?The level of opposition is even higher than what was recorded in an IRIS Research survey of residents soon after the government announced its proposal for the forced amalgamations.

-?Obviously residents still feel very passionately about this issue.-?

Kiama Downs resident Leah Sinclair said he voted against the government-?s proposal because she wanted the council to retain its local representation.

-?You do know the councilors faces, they come around to the school and the surf club, it-?s just a nice little community,-? she said.

Tim Rossiter also voted -?no-?, saying Kiama had -?always been this way-?.

-?I don-?t see why we should change it,-? he said.

Katina Michael said residents wanted to see the area-?s history retained.

-?I want to see us keep Kiama Council-?s historical underpinnings and [provide] local services [and] local attention to all our amenities and for local people to be able to keep their jobs in Kiama,-? she said.

Kiama state MP Gareth Ward welcomed the result of the vote and said he would use it to reinforce to the government the community-?s opposition to the merger plans.

-?I will use everything at my disposal to make it clear to the government about the community-?s views,-? he said.

The state government is expected to hand down its decision on all proposed mergers later this week.

Citation: Angela Thompson and Shannon Tonkin, "Thousands of Kiama residents say "no" to merger in poll", Illawarra Mercury.