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CBD may not be right for GovHub

The call for a visionary and dramatic rethink of the region’s planning and development policies come as a major rebuff to Greater Bendigo council’s in-principle to build a bureaucratic monolith on the site of the city’s current municipal offices in Lyttleton.

The costly and flawed GovHub concept touted to rejuvenate the CBD flies in the face of the polycentric model advocated in the Bendigo Weekly by Don Erskine and Trevor Phillips.

They want independent self-contained suburbs similar to Canberra could be developed at Maiden Gully, Strathfieldsaye and Marong, with further expansion north of Huntly to be discouraged because of perceived concerns about flooding and inadequate transport infrastructure.

They also believe a network of employment areas could eventually be established at areas including Ravenswood, Eaglehawk and Strathfieldsaye.

Contrast this vision to the council decision, if it persists in ignoring community consultation and plowing ahead with the local sell-out plan driven by the State Government, that will see hundreds of existing government jobs move into the CBD from other areas of Bendigo.

Greater parking woes, more gridlock on the roads at peak times and the heart of Bendigo pumping overtime while council sucks economic life out of other suburbs that are equal participants in the life of this city that once fiercely prided itself on passion and independence.

Because of the secrecy council and CEO Craig Niemann have wrapped around GovHub, we do not know what other sites across the city were even considered for the project.

A simple audit of Crown land – property owned by the State Government sitting idle and returning no income – would reveal many sites in suburbs identified by Mr Erskine and Mr Phillips with the potential and capacity to accommodate new government structure.

Mr Phillips has said that present day planning policy for urban growth is based on a centralist model that promotes the CBD and promotes incremental growth around the existing urban zones.

“This could easily lead to all the bad features associated with urban congestion as seen in larger cities such as Sydney and Melbourne, and also fails to recognize the dramatic changes introduced to the retail sector, for example, with the digital age.

“I believe Bendigo’s future is in preserving as much of old Bendigo as you can and then providing a new Bendigo around that, which provides a lot more features you cannot superimpose on the old Bendigo.”

The centre of current day Bendigo evolved from gullies and creeks awash with gold and was transformed with the erection of poppet heads atop shafts driven deep into the underground quartz reefs.

The suburbs were a century ago embedded to those geographic features. Today it is a different story with key outer centres in Kangaroo Flat and Epsom complete with shopping centres, railway stations and service and sporting amenities.

Times have changed when it comes to planning. But missing in Bendigo is the high level embracement of the vision of Don Erskine and Trevor Phillips, a vision shared my many outside council who recognise the CBD-centric model of the past belongs as a memory.

Our city of now much more than the inner square mile. And as the population has grown, and will continue to do so, the geographic centre is now longer in Lyttleton Terrace.

It’s makes the GovHub location decision all the more flawed.

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