Council buckles on GovHub consultation
Bendigo council had been rattled into last-minute community consultation on GovHub after months of growing scrutiny of a flawed process for the project.
We’ve been calling on council and the State Government to come clean and face the people ever since councillors voted to sell out our city at their meeting in February.
Our calls for genuine consultation on selling prime Bendigo-owned CBD land had been flippantly rejected by both CEO Craig Niemann and Mayor Margaret O’Rourke until now.
Suddenly they’ve buckled to community pressure and announced we will get to have a say in a project many believe betrays Bendigo and, like the Carter farm debacle, shows utter contempt for residents and ratepayers.
But this is probably too little too late from a council and a government that appear hell-bent on imposing done-deals on Bendigo that will bring a mere fraction of economic benefit to the city when compared with the Ballarat GovHub project.
No family would sell its home and then pay rent to keep living there yet Bendigo council wants the city to do just that.
While we welcome the belated attempt at community consultation, I hope we have more say than choosing the colours of the curtains.
This is what the Bendigo Advertiser reported this afternoon on admission by council of the need to consult ... even if the questions keep going unanswered:
The community will get to have its say on the Bendigo GovHub when information sessions are held in July.
Business owners and traders attended an information session on Thursday night with City of Greater Bendigo director of corporate performance Andrew Cooney saying the feedback was encouraging.
"We have had really strong encouragement from traders in terms of business perspectives but also the benefits (the GovHub) will provide to greater Bendigo," Mr Cooney said.
"(The benefits) was part of council's decision when decided to have (Lyttleton Terrace) as preferred site.
"It was about providing service to customers, enhancing the environment for staff and providing an economic uplift to the city."
Bendigo Town Hall will host a community information session on July 27 to discuss elements of the GovHub project.
Mr Cooney said there had been few complaints from residents about the GovHub plan.
"It's a project of some complexity," he said. "There has been some interest from certain areas, some is a positive interest and there are others who are asking to consider alternatives. We'll keep working with community."
GovHub construction is set to begin in 2020. Mr Cooney said council is working to find alternate sites for staff to work in during the construction that will also ensure customer service isn't impacted.
"Supporting out staff and providing seamless customer service is a priority for us," he said.
"We have got some time before we leave this site. There will be some disruption, we know that, but we believe the benefit at the end is going to warrant some disruption.
"Our focus is that customer service isn't impacted."
"We're thinking about how does this site and its construction interact with the TAFE site and law courts construction," he said.
The site of the council's offices at Lyttleton Terrace where the state government's GovHub will be constructed.
"We'll have an eye as to how the whole precinct will operate, not just for the next one to two years but the next five years. We'll plan very carefully about how to make space available."
"The city will work with traders and the community to make sure they understand what all the arrangements are. Again there will be some disruption, but we think the future will be exciting and worth going through some of that."
Member for Bendigo East Jacinta Allan said everyone involved in the GovHub project was keen to hear from the community.
"Regional Development Victoria led those (trader) discussions and the feedback, as I have been advised, is positive," she said.
"Hundreds of millions is being invested in central Bendigo across the GovHub, the new TAFE development and the new law courts.
"It's a massive injection to heart of Bendigo's CBD and I think traders are excited about it becoming a reality."
With 1000 more people working in the CBD when the GovHub is completed, along with the customer using the agencies' services, Ms Allan said things like more CBD parking would be considered.
"Parking is always a hot button issued for any development, that's understandable," she said. "People want easy access whether it is for doing their shopping or (conducting) business in the CBD.
"Car parking needs of both the staff and people coming into the CBD for business is being taken into account.
"But with the great additional injection into public transport that we're making in in Greater Bendigo, there are more bus services, more trains service with Bendigo Metro coming and out of the city.
"So there is great public transport options to move around Bendigo."