State in play

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 24-Nov-2017

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IN exactly 365 days from today, Victorians will once again head to the polls to choose who will be their elected representatives for the next four years.

From this far out, the 2018 state election looks like being a cliff hanger, with a large number of seats up for grabs and the Andrews government clinging to a wafer-thin majority as it battles a resurgent Greens vote in inner Melbourne and some perceived voter indifference to the government of the day, to try and survive for a second term.

So when the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry this week wheeled out its regional Victorian blueprint for what it wants to see supported at next year’s election, we should all take note.

The chamber says the Regional Agenda recommendations, one of four key themes discussed at today’s Victoria zasummit, are directed at increasing competitiveness in regional areas. 

That competitiveness needs to be inclusive, and it should concern all Bendigo residents that our city appears to be massively under-represented in the recommendations.

Fast rail links between Melbourne airport and the cities of Ballarat and Geelong are worthy considerations, but where is Bendigo in all this?

It’s not competitive if you’re not in the game.

We cannot sit on the sidelines and allow our city to be left behind or out of such a major infrastructure program.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry is correct to state sustainable regional growth will not happen by itself, and that the incoming state government, regardless of who it is, must make regional economic, investment and employment growth one of its priorities.

Bendigo has punched above its weight for much of the past decade, in the process becoming the state’s third largest city after Melbourne and Geelong. 

Bendigo’s specific priorities to be championed by the chamber include stage three works at Bendigo airport, ongoing funding for Marong Business Park, the under construction indoor aquatic facility at Kangaroo Flat, and the Greater Bendigo Public Space Project to support “a more liveable environment for the community, preserve space for natural areas and wildlife, and promote tourism”.

As a city whose growth has been constant and whose aspirations remain lofty, we all know we cannot afford to lose any of the momentum that’s been achieved, because this is what has driven our city to its many successes.

The desire for perpetual motion must be recognised, and must continue as our city looks to continue to evolve, to reinvent itself and to innovate.

The price to pay for complacency or second best will be measured not just in what doesn’t happen in the next few years, but in the subsequent opportunities that would otherwise slip through our fingers in the years ahead.

That is why underwhelmed is not something we should ever be or accept.   

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