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Trust, accountability and honesty: pressure on Bunch

There in black and white, printed in the Bendigo Advertiser at the weekend, were three powerful words – trust, accountability and honesty.

They are words to imbue us with confidence that there is indeed a new era dawning here in Bendigo and restore Without Fear or Favour to coverage of what’s happening in our city and that, finally, those words will again be applied to scrutiny of City of Greater Bendigo councillors and officers.

With a little bit of luck, the armchair ride given to the Bendigo Bunch over the appalling sell-out of our city for Jacinta Allan’s GovHub has come to a screeching halt.

We now await the hard questions being asked of Ms Allan, Mayor Margaret O’Rourke and CEO Craig Niemann.

They’ve been ducking and weaving all year, getting rattled and rumbled but still hiding behind the barricades and refusing to consult this community on the biggest decision for our future made in decades. Fair and reasonable questions have gone unanswered, responses have been so dismissive and condescending that they have been insulting to the intelligence of every resident.

Media interviews by Ms Allan’s Parliamentary partner Maree Edwards that misleadingly claimed there had been extensive community consultation on dud GovHub went unchallenged by the Bendigo Advertiser at the time.

Changing council and government information has been meekly accepted by those previously with oversight of the newspaper promoting itself as Bendigo’s most trusted source of news.

Trust will be quickly regained by this once-great newspaper by promptly putting the tough questions to council – the questions council even threatened to delete from its facebook page (another appalling treatment of ratepayers that went unreported) in an open swipe at democracy and free speech.

Here at we even requested a meeting with the former editorial leadership of the Addy. No response, no acknowledgement of request even.

We offered to present our list of questions and concerns, have them investigated by journalists and the findings published in the Addy.

Changes at the Bendigo Advertiser and the encouraging words printed at the weekend provide a real chance to halt this council deal with government that really just gives our land and buildings to government to make a $25 million profit … and charge us rent as a tenant for the next 40 years.

An asset lost and money thrown down the Bendigo Creek over four decades and then what will Bendigo have – no building it owns, less money and less independence.

Council has already said any shortfall in the dud GovHub cost will be met by ratepayers and now they’re trying to get around the rate cap to find a way to charge us more in rates every year. Not bad for a project they said is no longer a partnership with government but still sees council picking up Ms Allan’s tab by employing the GovHub project officer and CEO Niemann, co-architect of the inconsistent GovHub models for Ballarat and Bendigo, sitting on the project management group.

The Bendigo Bunch and Ms Allan had better get ready for demands for greater accountability.

We have requested a meeting with the new editor of the Addy and welcome some hard-hitting journalism asking the hard questions on GovHub, the outcome being published in the newspaper.

We’re trusting the Bendigo Advertiser to report, upholding #yourrighttoknow because #bendigodeservesbetter

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