To judge the merit of council’s case to develop the Marong Business Park and compulsorily acquire Carter family farmland we need accurate information.

Otherwise, residents and councillors muddle, speculate, and possibly exaggerate.

Three councillors made media statements to underpin and defend council’s decisions.

According to mayor Margaret O’Rourke, “Bendigo manufacturing is growing and contributes $2.25 billion into our economy” (April 18).

Deputy mayor Jennifer Alden, claimed “council had done its homework and due diligence” (April 19).

Cr Wigglesworth noted, “the fake news that has been levelled in these important discussions is astounding” (April 20).

How do those statements stack up against council’s “commissioned and funded” economic profile (www.economy.id.com.au/bendigo) which was created “to assist councillors facilitate evidenced-based
decisions”?

The site’s information is derived from official sources (Australian Bureau of Statistics) using a National Accounts regional econometric model developed by the National Institute of Economic and Industry Research.

The site shows manufacturing’s output dropped over 10 years, 2005/06 and 2015/16 (latest data), from $1.06b, to $1.02b. Employees tumbled 4073 (FTE) to 3619.

That’s $1.23b less than council’s $2.25b claim. A lot of missing diligence?

With respect, I believe the mayor and deputy mayor are either innocently inaccurate, or they used a different source.

If another source, it needs to be identified, and a full explanation given for the $1.23b difference, otherwise $2.25b is “fake news”.

Council’s case cannot be argued using loose data; an inaccessible business case; and huge “costings of $100+ million undertaken in May 2014”, a burden that residents and taxpayers must meet, which, council admits, a “significant” amount “will not be recovered”.

Council has not told us how big that “significant” amount will be. It’s our money.

No doubt the city needs more industrial land, whether in Marong, or a mix of sites (it’s not too late). Council’s rail and road hub vision is important.

However, use of good agricultural land is highly questionable; council must back agriculture like it does tourism and arts.

Under the Local Government Act, one council “objective” is, to “promote economic viability and appropriate business and employment opportunities”.

Note the word “promote”. But disturbingly council appears to want to be an entrepreneur, developer, financier, and speculator, “roles” and “functions” not given to it under that Act.

Council has good intent. Difficult isn’t it?