MAYOR Margaret O’Rourke hopes next week’s state budget will deliver more jobs and services for Bendigo and the surrounding region.
Mid-way through her second term at the helm of the city, Cr O’Rourke said a lot of work had been done already to help create a government jobs hub, to advocate for a new law courts complex and to bring more vibrancy into the centre of Bendigo.
“Obviously the state government is looking to set up a government hub here with government agencies.
There is an opportunity for council to locate into that, as well and so we’ve been working with various government departments to understand the economics behind that and so on,” she said.
“There was money in the last budget, just over $1 million to do the feasibility study and so on, and that is progressing.
Obviously if that was something that really looked like coming to fruition through the budget we would be keen to be looking for jobs for Bendigo out of that and looking at what government departments might be able to locate to Bendigo also.”
Cr O’Rourke said shifting council staff from seven different sites into one purpose-built premises, under the same roof as other state and federal government employees would bring more people into the city on a daily basis.
“You’d be looking at a government hub the size of Bendigo Bank building so you’re talking about a building that will house about 1000 people.”
She said while the law courts were not a council responsibility, the organisation was a strong advocate for new and improved facilities to replace the current court complex.
“It’s a facility for last century… There’s not enough space for people. The areas for people to work in are not adequate and you’ve also got people that are coming to court sitting very close to the people that they are appearing against and so on,” she said.
“The amenity of the courts is not ideal.”
Cr O’Rourke also nominated the planned expansion of the Bendigo Chinese Association’s Golden Dragon Museum, including the potential for a high end hotel, as a “fantastic opportunity and one that has had a lot of work done on it as well”.
As to the future of Bendigo’s landmark Myer department store, Cr O’Rourke confirmed conversations with the embattled retailer were ongoing.
“Certainly we’ve been having conversations with Myer. They have a model in Hobart where they’ve got a high end hotel in the complex where Myer is,” she said.
“That sort of thing happens through developers, so you’d have to say… and there has been interest, there have been developers coming to Bendigo in recent times having a look around what’s available.”
Cr O’Rourke said Myer’s future in the city was part of a bigger picture discussion about Myer in its totality and future direction.
Juggling so many balls at the same time remains the mayor’s hardest issue, but she says an election year creates a heightened sense of “how can we do the best we can for greater Bendigo” throughout that process.
“Any opportunity is one where we put our best foot forward for Bendigo,” she said.
– Peter Kennedy