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Mayor does bidding on government buck-passing

In another classic case of Bendigo losing its independence, Mayor Margaret O’Rourke was out last week spruiking the latest buck-passing scheme from State Government masters in Melbourne.

This time the government is offering a pot of $100million in low-interest loans to councils to complete infrastructure projects, projects that would normally be the role of government to financially assist.

But these are not ordinary times. After all, the Bendigo Bunch has decided – only in-principle though – to sell the land and buildings that are the city’s home in Lyttleton Terrace to the government who will build a dud GovHub making it a profit at ratepayer expense, the Bunch rolling over to Spring Street by agreeing to pay rent for the next 40 years. Not good business but then council and government pig-headedly refuse to release their perhaps very flawed business plans.

And earlier this year the same Bendigo mayor was out applauding the State Government for its 2019-2020 budget. How wonderful are her masters in backing projects in regional Victoria, she said and without batting an eyelid failed to criticise government for anything Bendigo missed out on.

Talk about betrayal of our great regional city. Sell-out after sell-out by the people who have been elected to represent the best interests of Bendigo.

So back to this year’s loan scheme. According to the Mayor, priorities for Bendigo could include expanding the Bendigo Airport Terminal and re-branding and expanding the Golden Dragon Museum - both big-ticket projects in the city's investment prospectus and projects governments to date have shied away from.

"But we really want to look towards community hubs for our community," Cr O'Rourke said.

Interesting concept community hubs – not everything centralised in the CBD like dud GovHub is looking to do. Consistency, like consultation, is perhaps no longer a strong suite for the Bendigo Bunch.

And here’s the real crunch question. Can the Bendigo Bunch even afford to increase its borrowings, increasing the debt liability for all ratepayers?

"What this government is committed to is ensuring our councils are financially sustainable, particularly in the rural and regional areas where financial sustainability can be a big issue," Local Government Minister Somyurek said.

Another interesting concept – increasing debt for financial sustainability. To achieve that you need income not debt.

It’s just another case of government passing the buck and shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic.

The Bendigo Bunch should display more eagerness to jump ship and distance itself from dud GovHub and other government schemes, short on detail and high on cost.

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