This is a bad deal for Bendigo
City of Greater Bendigo has rejected a request for a public meeting on council’s decision to sell prime CBD real estate to the State Government and become rent-paying tenant in a GovHub.
Max Turner and Lindsay Sargeant believe the Bendigo deal falls well short of the lucrative Ballarat GovHub project and all council decisions have been made without public consultation and with limited information.
Their letter to all councillors requested councillors to organise CoGB office co-location GovHub public information and question and answer forum in the City Hall on 1 May.
The aim was to give residents an opportunity to better understand the proposal and make informed decisions as to whether their best future interests had been protected. It was intended to give councillors the opportunity to explain the detail of the GovHub proposal: its history, the cost to residents, potential benefits and negatives, projects that will be deferred, and the way councillors went about arriving at the decision they made.
Max and Lindsay said that, disappointingly, Council rejected the opportunity (letter attached) giving what can only be described as pathetic reasons that highlight the lack of prior public engagement and consultation to seek the best ideas and outcome for Greater Bendigo.
• Council says an extensive report on GovHub, including the options considered, was publicly released with the Council agenda prior to the 20 February meeting. However, the extensive report was released just six days before the Council Meeting allowing little time for residents to consider issues. The report itself is at best patchy and extremely difficult to follow even for the most competent.
• Council says in the lead up to the Council meeting, Councillors, invited, received and responded to multiple enquiries about the project. However, there had been no prior media releases nor was there any public detail about what council was proposing prior to the week before the Council Meeting.
• Council says the Council meeting was open to the public, community members were present in the gallery to listen to the debate for this project. However, they were unable to contribute to debate from the gallery.
• Council says during the debate of this item, each Councillor spoke at length about their views on the GovHub project, and the City of Greater Bendigo’s future involvement in the project. However, views are different to real understandings.
• All but one Councillor required an extension of time, some multiple, to enable them ample time to express their views on the topic. The fact is Council is relying on one week as its community effort. Council has never conducted any community engagement and consultation around a GovHub since a 2013 Independent Review Report proposed office consolidation. Only after the officers formulated their February 2019 extensive report did Council consider the community.
“The big problem with this whole GovHub project is there was been no public discourse or public debate or consultation or search for ideas. The residents own the land, not government.
“Credibility gaps appeared in officer reports, and media statements. Council officers and government took control away from residents and Councillors. A number of Councillors seemed mesmerised by the political overlay, the project’s complexity and big numbers. Councillors were left to comply and tick the box at the end of the day.
“At this point in time the evidence is that Council might gain access to new desk space at increased rental cost, yet lose the one billion dollar better economic benefits that Ballarat has gained because of poor Council advocacy.
“Be certain, advocates are after the best outcome for Greater Bendigo residents and that is why we continue to encourage the search for a better deal. Go to www.bendigogovhub.com.au and see their initial efforts.
“Council has lost a golden opportunity to work with residents and dispel any misunderstandings. It is not too late to get a better outcome,” say Max and Lindsay