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Withering Bendigo: Bunch disasters take toll

Bendigo Mayor Margaret O’Rourke may want a New Year Gong for trumpeting the appalling record of the State Government across regional Victoria … yet only the naïve, selfish or foolish would follow her disaster-strewn path into 2020.

With continued abandon and betrayal of the people of our city, this four-time mayor and Bendigo Bunch CEO Craig Niemann have now bobbed their head into the summer sand too many times and the economy of Bendigo is suffering in a nightmarish prelude to the future they are hell-bent on inflicting on us.

Within four months Bendigo-owned municipal offices and land will be virtually gifted to Premier Andrews for Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan’s GovHub. And Cr O’Rourke and Mr Niemann are handing over our money to the Government so council can then also pay big rent for 40 years.

There’s even a shortfall on Ms Allan’s dud white elephant GovHub. Millions of dollars short with council scurrying to get around the rate cap and jack up what we hand over every February to meet the difference - these are council’s own words not ours!

Throw in a job shortfall – just 55 committed new jobs for Bendigo – and is it any wonder our regional rivals Ballarat and Geelong are booming.

It’s not a competition says Ms Allan’s boss, the embattled Premier Andrews. But when on the government’s own figures there are now 1200 less jobs in Bendigo while Geelong has picked up 4300 and Ballarat 8400, Bendigo is no longer even in the game. We’re as competitive as the Giants in the 2019 AFL grand final.

People of Bendigo are finding it tougher and tougher and all this Bendigo Bunch can do is give away the assets, raid the rainy-day chest and devise or concoct schemes that are straight from a monkey’s bag of tricks.

Remember, the State Government is meeting the total cost on its own land for Ballarat GovHub, bringing 600 government jobs to that city. The same government a few years back moved the TAC to Geelong, along with hundreds of jobs.

Bendigo is not even getting the crumbs yet Cr O’Rourke was out at the start of the Christmas season harking and heralding how fantastic the Victorian economy is going.

Get a grip on reality Madam Mayor – less jobs, more people does not equal good times.

Speaking of reality, the smokescreen puffed out for years by Ms Allan and her Spring Street comrades about regional Victoria is nothing more than a Furphy.

According to the SGS Economics and Planning report on economic performance of Australia’s cities and regions for 2017-2018, regional Victroria was the only part of Australia to go backwards and over 10 years regional Victoria had GDP growth of a meagre 0.8 per cent. Only regional South Australia was worse at 0.7 per cent.

Cr O’Rourke as chair of the Regional Cities group in Victoria may well be pleased that Ballarat and Geelong are booming ahead. Unfortunately, she has forgotten that first and foremost it is Bendigo that must be represented and without a seat on council, you cannot be chief promoter of Premier Andrews through Regional Cities.

Bendigo council can still bring this dud and disastrous project to a screaming halt. Firm decisions are still to be made, even if Mr Niemann is ramming through lease agreements and temporary office relocation without mandate or authority.

Council, make it a New Year’s Resolution to be fully open and transparent with the people of Bendigo. Release the business plans, the real costs and put Bendigo first and tell the State Government no more second-class treatment of Australia’s largest inland city.

Our local economy has become too fragile under the watch of this CEO, council and State Government.

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