Housing plan endorsed – City of Greater Bendigo council meeting briefs

October 27, 2023 BY

Questions: Members of the public queried the accessiblity of remote question time during the most recent City of Greater Bendigo council meeting. Photo: FILE

AT the regular October meeting earlier in the week, City of Greater Bendigo councillors moved to endorse the Loddon Mallee Housing Action Plan, and note implementation strategies.

“It’s a small thing to say that housing is an issue across our region,” Cr David Fagg said.

“It’s in our news all the time and a lived experience for many people, so this is a welcome development that a region-wide approach to solving this issue is detailed in this report.

“Councils in the area… contributed $50,000 to the work of this report… which investigates issues related to housing, and details several strategies for addressing the housing needs of our region.”


Petition received

Councillors received a petition to widen Sedgwick Road in Mandurang and Sedgwick, and add a bike lane.

Submitted by 120 residents and ratepayers, the petition is aiming to improve safety for cyclists in a location where there are dangerous narrow sections of road, blind spots, bends, and poor driver visibility.

A cyclist was hit by a car along this road earlier in 2023.

Cr Jennifer Alden said the recommendation was for council to prepare a response to the submitters within two regular meetings.

“The City has validated the legitimacy of the petition and the CEO has determined to accept it as a petition despite it not being strictly delivered in accordance with the Governance Rules,” she said.

The submitters also said if the City is to promote itself as a sustainable place to live, cycling infrastructure is key.


Contracts awarded

Within the previous reporting period, contracts for work have been awarded under delegation.

As part of capital contracts TACT Constructions has been awarded works worth $520,543.83 for the Elmore public toilets and changing place, and the Maiden Gully tennis court renewal worth 1,060,120 is being done by APL Concreting.

Cr Julie Sloan said the City is committed to improving amenities and disability access across the municipality.

“During construction [of Elmore public toilets and changing place] temporary portable toilets will be available near the Elmore Miniature Railway carpark for use by community and visitors,” she said.

“The next stage is to choose a design… for the front of the building. I encourage everyone to have input on how the new building will look.

“The two options include a kookaburra… and the second is an image representing the historic Elmore Railway Station and water tower. The two options can be viewed at the City’s Let’s Talk website.”

Service contracts awarded were for five years’ worth of irrigation maintenance, to be done by Aussie Irrigation, Midland Irrigation, Plasville, and Bendigo Pumps and Irrigation, and multi-stream physical material composition audits have been awarded to JJ Richards and Sons trading as EnviroCom Australia for up to three years.


Annual report published

Councillors received the City of Greater Bendigo Annual Report for 2022/2023.

Mayor, Cr Andrea Metcalf said she was delighted to introduce the “beautifully presented” document to the community.

“It’s a good opportunity to reflect on what’s been achieved,” she said. “The year bought a new confidence and optimism for our community as we all embraced the opportunity to return to a new normal.

“Bendigo was the place to be. Elvis: Direct From Graceland smashed records, attracting 220,000 visitors.

“It was complemented by the national award-winning Viva Bendigo marketing campaign that encouraged people to stay longer in the region and choose from 100 Elvis-themed experiences.”

Within the year, Bendigo was the first Australian regional city to stage Melbourne Opera’s production of The Ring Cycle.

The $7 million Larni Garingilang precinct at the Bendigo Botanic Gardens officially opened to the public, as did the $1.5 million Lake Weeroona play space, amongst other projects.

Cr Metcalf also acknowledged the difficult year had across the region following the October 2022 floods.

Cr Margaret O’Rourke said financials are a key part of the report as well, which were approved last month.

“I always find our annual report really interesting when it gives you that snapshot of the things that have happened in the municipality over the last 12 months,” she said.


Subdivision refused

In line with section 61 of the Planning and Environment Act (1987), councillors unanimously refused an application for a three-lot subdivision of land at Crown Allotment 39, Craigs Lane in Knowsley.

“The proposal is inconsistent with the purposes of the farming zone by not encouraging the retention of productive agricultural land for agricultural uses and to limit the proliferation of non-agricultural uses,” Cr O’Rourke said, referring to the recommendations.

“The proposal is not in accordance with the Planning Policy Framework as it fails to protect productive farmland that is of strategic significance in the local context, to avoid the subdivision of productive agricultural land from diminishing the long-term productive capacity of the land, and to avoid subdivisions in the farming zone that create additional dwelling entitlements that are not required for the agricultural use of the land.

“The proposal fails to protect the adjoining, established intensive animal production facility from encroachment by an as of right use and associated development that would compromise the ability of the existing piggery to function safely and effectively as required by the Planning Policy Framework.”

She said the proposal is not in accordance with the Municipal Planning Strategy as it fails to protect agricultural land as a finite resource.


Board and committee changes

Following an expression of interest process, councillors endorsed new appointments to the Arts and Creative Industries Advisory Committee.

These recommended committee members are Dave Hughes, Debra Allanson, Rose Norton, Dan Mitchell, Dinali Dharmadasa, John Willis, Keira Long, Megan Champion, John Richards, Brett Adie, Reece Hendy, Paul Fletcher, Pat Thwaites, Tamara Reinisch, David Hague, and Troy Firebrace.

Kathryn MacKenzie and Seamus Haugh were also approved as the council’s appointed representatives to the Bendigo Tourism Board for an initial term concluding in September 2025.


Support for build

Councillors moved to advise the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal that they support the granting of a permit to build a dwelling, outbuilding, dam, and undertake associated works at Lot 3 Mandurang Road, Mandurang.

“The applicant has lodged an appeal with VCAT due to the failure of the City and council to make a decision within the 60-day statutory time frame,” Cr O’Rourke said.

“VCAT now hold the role of the decision-maker.”

They also moved to authorise the City’s Delegated Committee to do all things necessary to represent the council in that process, without again bringing the matter before councillors.


Harassment condemned

Cr Metcalf launched the council meeting with the community recognition section on a “disappointing” note, highlighting antisocial behaviour.

“There have been instances of racism and harassment towards community members in Bendigo recently,” she said. “This is unacceptable.

“Racism, discrimination, and harassment are not tolerated. Please call out unacceptable behaviour as you see it.

“We all have a role to play in ensuring Greater Bendigo is an inclusive, welcoming, and safe space for all.”


Questioning question time

Kaylene of Long Gully queried whether removing in-person questions from the gallery during council meetings has been a success or not.

Cr Metcalf responded emphasising that question time may not be face-to-face anymore, but it continues with written queries submitted.

“It remains a key part of council meetings, as evidenced by the fact that Kaylene was able to lodge a question,” she said. “Thank you for lodging that by 4pm on the Friday before this meeting.”

“The trial success will be measured by the proportion of questions that are answered on the night, as opposed to being taken on notice, the proportion of council meetings that remain open and accessible to the community, and the quantity of complaints received from attendees regarding conduct of other attendees and any perceptions of safety communicated.”

A second related question came from James of Eaglehawk who said he finds it difficult to submit written questions to the council due to his dyslexia.

“Would the council reinstate question time to be done in person at the council meetings, as this would help and encourage people like myself to be more involved?” he said.

Cr Metcalf apologised that he felt excluded and said there is support available.

“Please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Councillor Support team on 1300 002 642 to either talk direct or to make a time to meet,” she said.

“This goes for anyone with a disability or literally anyone that would simply like guidance on how to suitably frame your question, so that you get the answer you are actually seeking, and the types of questions that council specifically can assist with.”