Our Community

Port Stephens is a thriving and strong community respecting diversity and heritage.

About Port Stephens

The Port Stephens Local Government Area (LGA) is located north of Newcastle and covers an area of 858.5 square kilometres. Its borders extend north to Karuah, west to Dunns Creek, east to Shoal Bay and south to Hexham.

Our LGA is divided into 3 Wards with 3 Councillors elected to represent each Ward — West, Central and East. The Mayor is popularly elected by the community.

The Worimi people are the traditional owners of Port Stephens. We value the unique status of Aboriginal people as the custodians of these lands and waters. Port Stephens was named after Sir Philip Stephens, First Secretary of the Admiralty in the late 1700s and later a Lord Commissioner of the British Admiralty between 1795 and 1806.

Port Stephens is known for its stunning natural beauty, unique wildlife and strong community spirit. These characteristics make our place to live, work, play and stay.

Committees and interest groups

Councillors carry out their roles and responsibilities as both members of Council and Council Committees. The Mayor is always the chair of a Council Committee but can delegate this function or resume the function at their discretion. Council's Committees are either entirely comprised of Councillors or include Councillors, community members and/or staff.

Under Section 355(c) of the Local Government Act 1993, Council may delegate certain functions to committees who are involved in activities, services or events on Council land. This provides opportunities for the community to be involved with the management of the facilities and services they use.

Under this arrangement, volunteers undertake approved work on Council land and services such as sporting facilities, parks, reserves, community halls and libraries. These committees meet at least quarterly.

Port Stephens Council is often asked to participate in regional advisory panels, task forces and working parties to further the interests of the broader Hunter region.

Councillors may be involved with Chambers of Commerce, either as members or as representatives of Council.

Although these groups do not have a formal relationship with Council, they act as lobby groups representing sections of the community. Councillors may attend via invitation or request to attend to discuss Council issues.

Community involvement with Council

The Local Government Act 1993 outlines a clear commitment to community participation and consultation in major planning and decision-making processes of Council.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of Port Stephens. Without our volunteers, many of our programs and services could not be provided to our community.

As a Councillor, your role is to:
  • represent Council on the volunteer committees
  • liaise between Council and volunteer committees
  • provide guidance and advice to volunteer committees on Council activities, plans, meeting protocol and more.
Volunteer key points:
  • Code of Conduct — applies to all volunteers and committees
  • Contractors — under delegated authority, 355(c) committees are able to engage a contractor to deliver goods and/or services to undertake the functions of the committee, and as such, are also required to adhere to Council’s procurement procedures.
  • Finances — funds administered by 355(c) committees must meet Council's standards of compliance, management and transparency.
  • Forums — these provide an opportunity for volunteers to get together with Council staff. Usually, 3 Hall Forums and 3 Park Forums are held each year to discuss work priorities, decision making, site visits, recruitment ideas and volunteer recognition. Councillors are invited to attend.
  • Volunteer recognition — we recognise our volunteers through thank you cards, certificates of appreciation, media promotion, our annual volunteer event and the Port Stephens Annual Awards.

In addition to Council's directly engaged volunteers, the Rural Fire Service (RFS) and the State Emergency Service (SES) operate largely on a volunteer base. All RFS and SES volunteers are managed through NSW State Government agencies and interact with Council regularly. Council contracts the RFS to manage rural fire volunteers on its behalf and counts on approximately 450 RFS volunteers. As for the SES, Council provides the facility and is responsible for its maintenance.

Networks and relationships

Some of our strategic alliances include:
  • Williamtown Consultative Committee — work with Department of Defence to manage the impact of a defence base in Port Stephens
  • Department of Lands — memorandum of understanding to work together on a regional approach to Crown lands in Port Stephens
  • Aboriginal Strategic Committee — working in partnership with Worimi, Karuah and Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Councils
  • Keep Australia Beautiful Committee
  • Cancer Council
  • Surf clubs
  • Sports Councils
  • Hunter Water
  • Development Industry Reference Group

Celebrating our community

Port Stephens celebrates Australia Day on 26 January at 4 locations:

  • Raymond Terrace — organised with Raymond Terrace Rotary Club
  • Nelson Bay — organised by 355c sub-committee
  • Lemon Tree Passage — organised by Lemon Tree Passage Lions Club
  • Karuah — organised by Karuah RSL.

Each community group is represented on our 355c Australia Day coordinating committee.

Each year on Australia Day, we recognise those members of our community who have achieved or made a significant contribution to Port Stephens as part of our Port Stephens Annual Awards.