THE controversial move to compulsory acquisition of Marong farmland is likely to become entangled in the state election with National Party candidate for Bendigo East Gaelle Broad promising to take up the issue to get a different result.
Timing could also be against the City of Greater Bendigo which wants to buy the 311 hectares of land for a business park.
Strategy and growth director Bernie O’Sullivan said the council wanted a decision from planning minister Richard Wynne as soon as possible.
The state election will be held in November but parties are already in campaign mode and they will be mindful of the fall out from any decision made closer to the polling date.
“It has been a 15-year journey so it certainly won’t be any surprise for the minister,” Mr O’Sullivan said.
But a spokesperson for Mr Wynne said there was no definitive timeline for the decision.
Although a set of recommendations has already been released by an independent panel which failed to find justification for applying a public acquisition overlay, the council has completed subsequent work over the past 18 months shoring up its case which will now have to be assessed by the Department of Environment, Land Water and Planning.
“Planning for the park is a matter for the City of Greater Bendigo, but all proposed acquisitions are carefully considered and put through a stringent process,” the spokesperson said.
“Once completed, a briefing to the minister will be prepared, outlining his options for consideration.”
Meanwhile, Ms Broad has made contact with the Carter family whose land the council wants to buy, and will meet with mayor Margaret O’Rourke and the Bendigo Manufacturing Group calling for the park, in coming weeks.
Ms Broad said she grew up on a farm.
The Carters have farmed their land at Marong since the end of World War I when returned veteran Herbert Carter started farming as a soldier settler.
Their connection to the land is the part of the reason the Carters have refused to sell.
“The public acquisition move looks like a win-lose scenario and I would really prefer a win-win outcome,” Ms Broad said, referring to the Carters as the party set to lose.
“We do want jobs, so I do support council in wanting to encourage manufacturing businesses to the region.
“On the other side, I was fourth generation on a farm and I understand the significance of that, and the connection with the land.
“I am pretty keen to advocate for a win-win outcome and I am meeting with the mayor in a couple of week so I am pretty keen to find out more.”
Bendigo East MP Jacinta Allan said the next step now sat with Mr Wynne.
“People who have views either way on this decision can obviously express them to the council, to their local members of parliament or the state planning minister,” she said.
“There are people who oppose this decision and people who support this decision and they are obviously not easy decisions to make.
“But council has made that decision and it now sits with the planning minister.
“These do need to be balanced up between how can you support the landowners through this process and there are legislative mechanisms that required you to do that.
“But it has to be weighed against how we can continue to support jobs in and around the Bendigo community.
“It is a difficult one but it is obviously a decision that needed to be made.”
– Sharon Kemp