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Boundary changes under new scrutiny

CHANGE AHEAD: Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker draws a line in the sand where proposed redistributions would split the federal electorate in Coffs Harbour.
CHANGE AHEAD: Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker draws a line in the sand where proposed redistributions would split the federal electorate in Coffs Harbour. David Barwell

A FRIENDLY rivalry between Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie could turn into a full-blown feud, under proposed federal electoral redistributions that would force the two cities within the same boundary.

That's the opinion of Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight as the Australian Electoral Commission seeks final input into proposals that would cost NSW one seat in the House of Representatives.

The redistribution means the Coffs Harbour local government area would be divided as towns including Woolgoolga shift to Page while Port Macquarie and Crescent Head would be added to Cowper.

Coffs Harbour Mayor Denise Knight said the rivalry between Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie was friendly, but real, and there was already existing competition for Federal Government funding and resources.

"At the moment it's a friendly competition but (these changes mean) the ante could be upped to the next level," Cr Knight said.

"The changes don't reflect the ties that exist within our local government area and I am of the understanding that two big cities should not be in the one electorate."

791 objections have been lodged in NSW, sparking an AEC inquiry to be held in Port Macquarie yesterday.

Objections included a submission by the Greater Port Macquarie Tourism that said Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie's interests were in conflict.

"Both cities are engaged in friendly rivalry especially in tourism, endeavouring to attract the most overnight visitation as a strategic objective," the submission read.

"Within that context, the proposed boundary change would be disastrous."

An AEC spokesman said yesterday's inquiry would inform changes to the proposal before its implementation in January.

Member for Cowper Luke Hartsuyker said he didn't believe significant changes would be made.

"The gross intent that Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie will share the one electorate is pretty much set in stone (and) it's virtually impossible to see Coffs and Port Macquarie moved into another electorate given that it would require the total state to be redrawn," he said.

If the changes are approved, Mr Hartsuyker said he would maintain an office in Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.

"Both Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie are strong growth areas and command equal consideration in terms of resources."

Topics:  australian electoral commisison coffs harbour cowper port macquarie



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