A ONE-STOP shop for state and local government services on the fringes of the central business district has been given the green light.

Councillors voted on Wednesday to back the $90 million GovHub, which will see 400 City of Greater Bendigo staff join 600 state government employees in a single premises, to be built on the city’s current Lyttleton Terrace site.

Mayor Margaret O’Rourke said the GovHub would revitalise the city centre and drive investment in the
local economy.

“This is an amazing city-building project with a key focus on bringing more people into central Bendigo to work or engage with government services,” Cr O’Rourke said.                

“Our customers will be the real winner, as the GovHub will provide for the convenient, centralised delivery of a range of government services, where residents will be able to make planning enquiries, obtain permits, make general enquiries and pay bills all in one place.”

Dispelling comments Bendigo was getting a raw deal compared to Ballarat, Cr O’Rourke listed a string of government funded investments into Bendigo over the past eight years that were worth more than $800 million.

She said the GovHub was a further example of the government’s support and confidence in regional Victoria, and particularly in Bendigo.

The proposal’s most vocal opponent has been former state MP Max Turner, who maintains he is not against the project as much as he is the process followed, and the perceived lack of detail and transparency, and a failure to consult with the community.

“Disposing of city property without giving the people a say on the future of their assets is an affront
to democracy and a blight on council,” he said.

Mr Turner also seized on an administrative error in the council agenda that saw the address of the new GovHub incorrectly listed as being on land at 159 – 229 Lyttleton Terrace, instead of 195 – 229 Lyttleton Terrace.

A City of Greater Bendigo spokesperson yesterday downplayed the error, and said the intention of the resolution was to signal to the community that the Lyttleton Terrace site needed to be sold to enable the development of a GovHub.

“There is still a formal process to go through to sell the site and the address will be corrected as part of this process,” the spokesperson said.

Mr Turner was also critical of Cr Malcolm Pethybridge who revealed a price tag for the Lyttleton Terrace land as being about $5 million.

It’s understood the figure is an early estimate for the purpose of the business case and a future evaluation will be confirmed as part of the sale process.

The GovHub is expected to create 90 jobs and inject $131M into the local economy during construction, and deliver a range of economic benefits to neighbouring retail and hospitality businesses.

During a long and at times tense debate on Wednesday night, councillors eventually voted 6-2 in favour of supporting the GovHub, with councillors Andrea Metcalf and George Flack voting against the proposal, while Cr Jennifer Alden abstained.

Cr James Williams said calls for a service centre such as a GovHub had been a “long term ambition of the commissioners”, and the disjointed nature of the city’s modern-day operations created inefficiencies which meant not proceeding with the GovHub would do staff a disservice.

Speaking against the recommendation, Cr Andrea Metcalf said many of the services touted as being more accessible and practical under the GovHub model could already be done from home.

Cr Metcalf was scathing in her assessment of the information presented to councillors and said her request for some further details of the project had been denied.

Cr Yvonne Wrigglesworth cited the transformation of Bendigo Health over the past decade since she arrived in Bendigo to work for the health provider as an example of a city on the move, and a risk worth taking to establish and be part of the GovHub.

Cr Matt Emond said the scenarios of each of the GovHubs proposed by the state government for Bendigo, Ballarat and the Latrobe Valley were specific to those individual communities, and to a point in time.

He said the efficiency gains that were part of the GovHub were not just for the city, but were also for the community.

Cr Alden said she was a strong supporter of the GovHub concept, but said it was too early to know if the option recommended to councillors was the best for ratepayers, and added she would have liked to see more modelling on the BOOT option originally recommended.

Cr Alden said she was also concerned about the possibility if councillors did not support option one and agree to sell council owned land into the project, the state government might withdraw, and that the decision making of council was “somewhat compromised.”

Cr Flack said he preferred to defer a vote for two months so that more consultation could be undertaken.

Council will now work with the Valuer General on the sale of the Lyttleton Terrace parcel of land, and the sale proceeds will be invested back into the project, together with up to $7.28 million for temporary accommodation costs for staff and office fit out.

Residents will have a chance to have their say on the design of the building through a consultation process to be run by the state government, with matters such as car parking to also be considered.

The city is also completing a car parking strategy for the northern end of the CBD  following the completion of the GovHub, Bendigo Law Courts and Bendigo TAFE developments.