Slow going: State and city clash over infrastructure rollout

June 20, 2022 BY

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews (first from right) speaks at University Hospital Geelong flanked by (L-R) South Barwon MP Darren Cheeseman, Lara MP John Eren, Labor candidate for Lara Ella George, Barwon Health chief executive officer Frances Diver, Bellarine MP Lisa Neville (obscured) and Geelong MP Christine Couzens. Photo: JAMES TAYLOR

The City of Greater Geelong and the Andrews Labor Government are at odds over the city’s delivery of major infrastructure, with local Labor MPs expressing a “lack of confidence” in how the projects are being managed.

In response, the city’s chief executive officer Martin Cutter said he was “bitterly disappointed” with the state government’s public approach to the issue.

On Thursday last week, five Labor MPs – Bellarine MP Lisa Neville, Geelong MP Christine Couzens, Lara MP John Eren, South Barwon MP Darren Cheeseman and Member for Western Victoria Gayle Tierney – sent a joint letter to Geelong deputy mayor Trent Sullivan.

The letter, later released to the media, stated the five MPs had a “growing concern and lack of confidence in the capacity and capability of the City of Greater Geelong (COGG) to deliver the projects and infrastructure that our community need and want”.

“There is a disturbing trend developing with important projects that have had significant funding provided by the state government being delayed, de-prioritised and/or mismanaged by COGG.”

The letter cited nine examples:

* Geelong Sailing School

* Kardinia Park Masterplan

* Ocean Grove Boat Ramp Pontoon

* Stage 2 of the Drysdale Sports Precinct

* St Leonards Early Learning Centre

* Portarlington Reserve Masterplan

* FC Leopold Estuary Reserve

* St Leonards/Indented Head CFA fire station, and

* The city’s handling of bike lane construction in central Geelong.

“Until there is progression on the projects listed in this correspondence, we will seek to prioritise projects that are not reliant on COGG input or facilitation,” the letter stated.

Responding to the MPs’ letter, Mr Cutter said the letter contained “a number of significant inaccuracies, which could have been discussed and resolved quickly had they chosen to reach out earlier” but did not offer examples.

“As the chief executive of the City of Greater Geelong I am bitterly disappointed that five of our local state Members of Parliament have chosen to raise concerns regarding the delivery of several local projects in the media rather than approach the city directly to have an informed discussion.

“At the City of Greater Geelong we have and will continue to act in good faith and in the best interests of the community.”

Mr Cutter said the city had successfully delivered more than $200 million of capital projects in the past year, many with state and federal contributions.

During a visit to University Hospital Geelong on Friday last week, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews continued the criticism.

“Let’s be really clear about this – the City of Greater Geelong don’t pay too much, but they stand in the way of everything,” he said.

“And that’s just not good enough. Either get on with it or get out of the way.”

Asked if the city electing a new mayor tomorrow (Friday, June 17) to replace Cr Stephanie Asher would improve relations, Mr Andrews said: “I’d certainly hope so.”

“But what this is about and what the sense of frustration is about and what the letter is about is outcomes.

“It’s not about process and it’s not about whether you have blue or red [as mayor]. It’s about getting things done.”