IF you spend the time to talk to old local families, recent (over the past 40 years) arrivals and tourists alike they will all comment on the look and feel of this great city.
To them this is expressed by Bendigo’s shady, tree-lined streets, its surrounding bushland, its vibrant atmosphere and its historic streetscapes.
These are the things that have attracted, and continue to attract, people to this wonderful place.
To some people within our community, notably of late our councillors, maintaining the balance between what attracts people to Bendigo and accommodating them is a dilemma of insurmountable proportions.
In this they are partly correct.
Striking a balance between growth, and maintaining our heritage assets, is not something that everyone can do.
As a matter of fact there is a specialist university degree that informs students of the critical factors that should be taken into account when looking at this question.
Most municipal councils in Australia have either professionally trained staff or engage a heritage consultant to provide this expertise.
This position is often supplemented by the formation of an advisory body of informed professional locals who, generally with a wealth of local knowledge behind them, supply further advice to council.
Bendigo has a full-time heritage adviser, with a wealth of knowledge behind her, trained staff and a professional and conscientious advisory committee.
They are there to provide serious professional advice to council but, of late, they may as well have stayed home with their loved ones, but they don’t.
Instead, on short notice, they take time from their busy lives to read reports supplied to them by the council, personally inspect properties and, most importantly, take the time to consider all evidence before attending their meetings and commenting on each case on its merits.
This body, council staff and the heritage adviser, are not a group of emotional “save everything at any cost” fringe dwellers.
They are professional people who are critically aware of the need for additional housing stock in Bendigo and always strive to achieve a recommendation that achieves this and also ensures that our heritage, the things that made us what we are today, is respected.
It is disturbing that the new council – with the best of intentions, I’m sure – has recently voted to ignore the professional advice of their own people.
Smart business people know what they know; the smartest of them also know what it is they don’t know and seek the advice of professionals around them.
It’s time for councillors to become better informed by asking questions and when they receive advice to consider it carefully.
I, for one, am happy to sit down with them and answer their questions at any time.
Dr Gary Hill,
president, National Trust Bendigo and District Branch