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COUNCILLORS, MPs MUST HALT EXTRAVAGENT GOVHUB BEFORE TICKING TIMEBOMB SMASHES CITY ASSETS

Updated: May 1, 2020

BY MAX TURNER

Some councillors elected to represent the best interests of Bendigo have without proper community consultation abetted the State Government in ramming through by stealth plans for an extravagant GovHub.

Even after asking sensible and legitimate questions to government and City of Greater Bendigo, these “project owners” still wrap GovHub with flimsy window dressing and fuel mystery that shrouds their plans. Hollow is their retort. Views of residents ignored.

An appallingly low level of accountability and transparency around GovHub is a slight on our city and an insult to democracy. No decision has been made that finally commits council (and people of Bendigo) to jumping in with the State Government, handing over OUR land and buildings in Lyttleton Terrace for a GovHub requiring ratepayers to fork out commercial rent to an unknown owner for 40 years.

Yet despite this, Bendigo’s unelected executive team, elected councillors and MPs are more focussed on letting bulldozers rip than listening to their residents. What other excuse could there be for council employing additional highly-paid staff including a GovHub project manager, vacating and decommissioning the Lyttleton Terrace offices and entering into a commercial lease with Bendigo Bank. And, for a project still to be confirmed, why would major construction company Fairbrother now be calling for tenders associated with building Bendigo GovHub?

The benefits, dubious if any of CBD asset disposal have not been openly debated by council, whilst opposition grows including four former Mayors who oppose this model. The impact on our rates of paying commercial rent not explained. Council and government keep ducking and weaving, unwilling and refusing to engage in consultation and conversation with the community.

When challenged, the mantra published in the Bendigo Advertiser is “1000 new jobs”. Not true: Council’s 400 CBD based employees plus hundreds of existing government job will be plucked from Epsom and East Bendigo to artificially reorder the economic structure of the CBD; 100 additional new government jobs, says the State Government, yet only 55 confirmed that bleakly compares with 600 created for Ballarat GovHub on government land and without council money or tenancy.

Over ten years a one-billion-dollar better deal for Ballarat. Council and government remain silent on parking for their proposed GovHub. How many millions and who will pay? Ballarat again got a better deal, with the Government providing money to boost CBD parking. Nothing for Bendigo.

The exaggerated one-stop shop benefits remain questionable. Bendigo has far greater priorities to secure its future than the unnecessary extravagance of our city going from landlord to tenant to satisfy the whims of elected and unelected officials who have shunted residents and ratepayers from a position of priority and will leave us without any equity in the “city’s offices”.

Soon councillors will make their final decision. Until Bendigo residents are given a vote, elections are just five months away, conscience dictates a halt to GovHub. Who could forget the Carter’s Farm fiasco?

To not allow the community a vote will be the ultimate betrayal of Bendigo and condemn our city to less influence and independence in determining our future. Better options are possible.


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