MAYOR Margaret O’Rourke said councillors believed state planning minister Richard Wynne had green lighted the Marong Business Park in August 2017 when he approved a rezoning.
It was a belief that played a signficant part in their April decision to move to compulsory acquisition, Cr O’Rourke said yesterday.
As Cr O’Rourke revealed that external legal and consultative work to plan the park had cost the council $1.93 million, she reiterated her disappointment that Mr Wynne had failed to support the next step that would have secured land for industrial development.
“The only person who can do the rezoning is the minister so there is a huge amount of work that has to go in from any council when there is a rezoning of land,” she said.
“That information was put forward to the state planning authority and they then do their own research and investigation.
“They just don’t take what any council puts in there, their own planners actually work through that as well.
“Through that process, it came out that the land would be rezoned to comprehensive development.
“So that does factor in. Does it take up all your thoughts? No, however it has been a project that was backed by the state.”
Cr O’Rourke said she had received nothing but the decision from Mr Wynne, who has previously said the decision had not damaged the council’s relationship with the state government.
In putting a cost on the planning work, Cr O’Rourke said she was dismissing as wrong “outrageous figures bandied about on social media”, including one that priced work at $49m.
The positive spin the council has put on the cost is that over 16 years of planning, $1.93m equates to about $121,000 a year, and some of the work is still relevant to find an alternative site.
“This is a modest figure given the amount of work undertaken as part of the project over this time,” Cr O’Rourke said.
“I has included independent investigations of the need for a business park, examining possible sites, economic modelling and environmental studies, which is part of our obligations under the Local Government Act, as well as presentations to the independent panel and associated panel costs.
“I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that the decision to apply a public acquisition overlay to the Marong site for the purposes of a business park was one of the hardest decisions this council has had to make.
“Compulsory acquisition was absolutely not our preferred option, but we felt as a group, that for the benefit of the greater Bendigo community and the region it was the right decision to make.
“It is disappointing the minister has not supported our decision, as the state government had given the green light for this project and rezoned the land last August from farming to comprehensive development.
“Despite this, the need for industrial land in greater Bendigo remains urgent and critical, as we only have 10 years of industrial land supply left that may never be realised because of where it is located as the city has grown.”