MARONG farmer Max Carter has vowed the acquisition of 311 hectares of his property will cost council “a few more millions” if they try and take the land off his family forcibly.
Mr Carter and his family were at Wednesday’s City of Greater Bendigo council meeting when councillors debated whether to start the process of forcibly acquiring the land, farmed by four generations, to build a business park.
The family were visibly upset when five of seven councillors voted to go ahead.
Police officers had earlier escorted councillors into the town hall, and were prepared to eject a woman who persistently interjected while councillors debated the issue.
She later voluntarily left the meeting.
Councillor Julie Hoskin was cheered as she argued with mayor Margaret O’Rourke about her rights to ask questions regarding information provided by the council to an independent panel in 2016, the findings of which did not support applying a public acquisition overlay.
The panel recommended rezoning the land from farming to comprehensive development, and in the past 18 months, the council has attempted to answer doubts raised by panel members in order to reapply for a public acquisition overlay.
Wednesday night’s vote to proceed means the council will ask planning minister Richard Wynne to apply the overlay.
Councillors who supported the move drew on arguments that Bendigo needs to open up land for industrial use to compete with other regional cities.
Manufacturers and Bendigo’s business community have come out in support of acquiring the land, arguing they are looking for land to expand operations locally.
But the Carters and landowners who supported the family on Wednesday night argue the council has no right to forcibly buy the land, that it overstated the estimated 3500 jobs the park would create and the park was not for a public purpose, but for the use of private companies.
“I am very disappointed with councillors, I thought they would have more gumption then they did,” Mr Carter said after the decision.
He said he was cheered by the support of Crs Hoskin and Andrea Metcalf, who voted against applying for a public acquisition overlay.
“The rest just followed directions from (chief executive Craig Niemann) it looks like, they just put their hands up when they were told,” Mr Carter said.
“We will consider our position next week but we definitely won’t be selling to them.
“If they want to pursue acquisition than it is going to cost them a few more millions.”
Mr Carter would not commit to pursuing legal action against compulsory acquisition but he said the council would be required to pay his legal bills if he did.
“My daughter is really upset (about the council’s decision), I saw her crying and she has a right to, it is where she grew up,” he said.