A plan is needed now to ensure the region’s future.

ONE of Bendigo’s most respected community leaders has called for action on managing the city’s future growth and associated challenges as our population surges towards 200,000 by the year 2050.

Don Erskine is widely acknowledged as one of this city’s, and the region’s foremost lateral thinkers, and is a successful business owner and property developer.

A practical thinker, he was one of the most vocal advocates for the super pipe that now connects our region to Lake Eildon, and was the public face to the campaign led by this paper that helped gain the funding for the pipe.

Mr Erskine is also a former board member of both Coliban Water and the Bendigo Bank, and he has earned the respect of people from across both sides of politics and all sectors of the business community.

As one of the architects of the Bendigo 2050 paper that outlines a proposal for how to manage the city’s future growth, Mr Erskine is adamant Bendigo needs to plan now for what lies ahead.

He points to increasing traffic congestion issues at Howard Street and the Midland Highway, where Howard Street is the only way to get from Eaglehawk across to Huntly, as just one example of an ever-growing city under increasing stress.

“We are going backwards.”

Mr Erskine says unless action is taken now, the Marong township will be swamped by traffic in years to come as the community faces up to its increasing growth and vehicular traffic heading north on the Calder and Calder Alternate highways.

“We need to plan and designate roadways for the future now, so that there is surety about when and where these important linkages will be built, and people can make their own plans accordingly,” he said.

Mr Erskine is backing calls for employment zones at Axedale, Marong, Ravenswood and Huntly to be located in proximity to population centres for the future that needed to be considered now.

He said the era of large-scale manufacturing had come and gone, and that Bendigo should instead be encouraging local businesses to grow and support the local community.

He said Mayfair Park was a good example of how small-scale manufacturing can deliver positive outcomes, and that the risks associated with
relying upon a smaller number
of big manufacturers means that
any downturn is more widely felt across the community. Recent downturns in the manufacturing sector in both Geelong and Ballarat were stark examples of this policy.

Mr Erskine said there is a need to designate what and where infrastructure is required – so people can move from one town to the next and bypass the centre of the city.

“Hubs and their connectivity are the key,” he said.

Mr Erskine admits upgrading or creating new roads through or along the edges of Bendigo’s forested areas will create controversy, but adds the implantation of firebreaks would be a payoff for the community.

“We just have to bite the bullet… there will be backlash, but it just has to happen,” he said.

He also believes Ravenswood offers enormous potential for Bendigo’s future due to its location, proximity to the Calder Freeway, to power, water and the potential to reinstate the railway siding.

While Mr Erskine is a successful property developer, he is also quick to clarify he does not own land at Ravenswood, but is simply a big believer in the area’s potential as a future development hub.

“I just think it’s a Monty… It just lends itself to a new satellite township in the next 15 or so years.”

He reminded potential opponents of the idea that Bendigo needs to plan for a further five satellite townships the size of Echuca around its perimeter, to be planned for, established and settled within the next 30 or so years.

“Growth is certain, and it is accelerating. We cannot slow it down but we can and we need to plan how we manage that growth into the future.”

He said policies that allowed the development of smaller one to three acre lots in suburbs such as Strathfieldsaye and Huntly were flawed and a barrier to future development in areas that are likely to come under pressure as Bendigo’s population continues to grow.