Lessons learned

I read with interest your stories in last week’s edition about the Carter family’s “win” over what looks like a bumbling bureaucracy and arrogant councillors.
Now, I am just a simple country boy, but there are a couple of things that struck me almost immediately when reading these stories.
Let’s start with one of the Carter neighbours – David Corby. He is quoted in the story headed ‘Carters counting the costs’ as saying: “Compulsory acquisition can only occur for public purpose.
“The private industrial estate the council pursued could not be further for the notion of public purpose.”
It follows then that council (its staff and councillors) have been wasting time, effort and resources for the past 16 years…, and they should have known. And, if they didn’t, which is hard to believe, the city’s legal counsel should have, and advised accordingly.
Now, if in turn that is true, the city should be held liable for the costs incurred by all those, including the Carters and Mr Corby, fighting a proposal that appears to have been doomed to failure from the start.
Unfortunately, the city has no money of its own. Those who will pay in the end will be the innocent ratepayers who put their trust in well-paid bureaucrats to run the affairs of the city professionally and efficiently.
It would be easy to argue that it is money that could be used much more constructively.
Now, in the front page story “Back flip”, our mayor is quoted as saying that council may well have to go down the path of compulsory acquisition again – with potential sites listed as Marong East, Elmore, Myers Flat, Goornong, Sebastian and Ravenswood.
Looks like the city’s staff and councillors have learned very little from the Carter experience.
I mean shifting the site does not change the notion of public purpose and they would do well to examine the meaning behind planning minister Wynne’s advice contained in his statement addressing why the proposal was rejected: “After careful consideration of all the arguments and after legal advice, the minister decided the amendment to the Greater Bendigo Planning Scheme that would allow the acquisition does not further the objectives of planning in Victoria, taking into account relevant social, environmental and economic
effects.”
This is not just an economic decision. I also am surprised the city did not have a fall-back position for this whole saga.
After all, 16 years is a long time to be fighting one family (and its neighbours) while, as the mayor concedes, industrial parks have gone ahead in Ballarat, Geelong and Shepparton.
That makes it appear to be a case of sheer bloody-mindedness.
And now it is set to start all over again.
I am hopeful that some lessons have been learned, but I am in no-way convinced.

Grant Maynard,
Huntly

 

Not so simple

I envy the certainty in Julie Hopper’s evaluation of the future of the electricity industry (Weekly, July 13), where the way forward is “simple”.
Being an engineer who was researching alternative energy options for the Queensland Electricity Commission from 1981 to 1984, I still wrestle with the complexities and uncertainties of smoothly integrating significant amounts of renewable energy into our system.
If renewables are so cheap, why is the price of electricity in South Australia, where renewables are most utilised, the highest in Australia at 44 cents per kWh against 28 cents per kwh for Victoria (Canstar Blue)?
When opportunity cost, ie the added expenditure of guaranteeing generation when it is needed, is incorporated into the calculations, the situation appears to be far from simple.

Brian Stanmore,
Junortoun

 

Myer property sale

I add my perspective to the debate over the Bendigo mall and the sale of the Myer Bendigo property.
Myer is in the business of retail sales and not property investment, so it’s logical that Myer will sell off the Bendigo site in the near future.
As to their continued presence in the retail sector in Bendigo, it is purely speculative in the light of current online shopping trends worldwide.
A recent article pumping up the myth that Myer will be an anchor tenant in a City of Bendigo redevelopment of the poorly CEO-driven agenda of the misguided mall concept is also purely speculative.
Council is falling for the CEO’s infatuation with the dismal failure of the mall in Bendigo.
Just take a good look at what has become of Bendigo’s CBD – a mass exodus of retail traders with nothing but empty retail space and virtual desolation of the mall.
The council and public must be bold enough to scrap the mall now, a simple opening up of Hargreaves Street to one-way traffic and the provision of a combination of angle and parallel parking as occurred in Stawell some years back which rejuvenated their CBD almost instantly.
Wake up councillors and stop being hoodwinked by your egocentric CEO and start facing fact, the mall just doesn’t work.

D John Smith,
Former Bendigo resident

 

Council’s secret plans

One can only hope and trust members of the Carter family can get on with their lives now the state government has ended the council’s ugly attempt to compulsorily acquire their land, and it’s time Bendigo residents were told how much of their money council squandered when it chose to act against the recommendations of the independent panel.
But, now I hear there’s another planning disaster in the making.
Despite the bruising defeat of its ill-considered and hugely expensive Marong Business Park fiasco, council appears to be rushing to develop a so-called “government hub” for which the government reportedly promised $16 million.
Overall estimated project costs vary from $90m to $100m depending on who you talk to.
It’s claimed this hidden project is being developed with assistance and encouragement from the current state government in pursuit of “decentralisation”.
Well I’m old enough to remember the last time decentralisation was a planning buzz-word.
I also remember it delivered very limited results despite considerable expenditure – just like the Marong Business Park.
In spite of the apparent secrecy surrounding the project, I recently saw a job advertisement for a senior position with council to manage this government hub.
I take it from the ad that the project is going ahead and ask mayor O’Rourke is it true council intends to demolish its Lyttleton Terrace offices and sell the very valuable large parcel of land they occupy?
Is a private enterprise being invited to construct a very large building by Bendigo standards in which council will rent back space for its administration offices at a substantial commercial rate?
Are other government and non-government organisations being invited to rent the rest of the building’s office space?
What will the project cost ratepayers to develop and what are the financial risks?
What, if any, new job opportunities will be created by the
project?
What has council done to ensure Bendigo residents are sufficiently knowledgeable about the proposal to give informed support of council’s decisions?
I canvassed 30 ratepayers last week and all bar one had no knowledge of the so called government hub.
Has a business plan been developed to satisfy ratepayers this project is a sound investment of their money?
What has council done to ensure the large building proposed will not have a disastrous negative impact on the city’s visual character and does it require council purchase of privately owned land?
Bendigo’s reputation cannot afford another costly council failure, it is beholden on the mayor to lift the veil of secrecy covering this city-changing proposal or quash these damaging rumours.

Max Turner,
Bendigo