Councillors will release plan for Greater Bendigo

A previous council meeting

A previous council meeting

UPDATE 6.30PM: City of Greater Bendigo will release the draft Council Plan for public comment.

UPDATE 6PM: City of Greater Bendigo councillors are expected to release the draft Council Plan for public comment tonight. 

Councillors will discuss the plan at a special meeting. 

The ambitious document details council's aim to become the most liveable regional city in Australia.

The city says it will measure itself against others over time to prove its liveability ranking.

Mayor Barry Lyons said the vision for Greater Bendigo would only be achievable with the support of the local community and the state and federal governments.

He said it was easy for a regional city to make claims about liveability so the City of Greater Bendigo had developed a number of key indicators that can be measured over time.

These indicators include:

·  Increasing the percentage of the population that walks or cycles five times a week for at least 30 minutes;

·  Increasing the proportion of houses within a 10 minute walk of a park or open space;

·  Increasing child immunisation rates to be better than the State average;

·  Decreasing the number of people over 60 who live alone on a low income;

·  Decreasing recorded offences of crimes against the person, including robbery, assault, rape and abduction;

·  Decreasing to 50 per cent or less the proportion of Greater Bendigo people who do not meet fruit and vegetable dietary guidelines;

·  Decreasing the number of people who are unemployed, expressed as a percentage of the labour force;

·  Increasing the proportion of people aged 17 years still attending education, including school and vocational training;

·  Increasing the proportion of the population who reported volunteering for a community group or activity more than once per month during the past year;

·  Increasing the number of people taking part in public discussion.

EARLIER: A CITY of Greater Bendigo councillor has backed Cr Peter Cox's comments that a series of special council meetings shouldn't go ahead, saying she has concerns about transparency. 

The council has organised the series of meetings to discuss the amended draft Council Plan 2013-2017, which details future priorities for Bendigo. 

Cr Helen Leach said she agreed with Cr Cox that the plan should be released for public comment at an ordinary, advertised council meeting.

"It should be a lot more transparent," Cr Leach said. 

"It should be in an ordinary meeting so it is broadcast to the community. It is too important not to be."

Cr Cox confirmed last night that he would not attend the special meeting, as a matter of conscience. 

Cr Leach said she was undecided whether she would attend. 

"The reason for the change that I was given was to fit in with 28 days of public consultation and it was required to come before council before a certain date," she said. 

"I don't think this warrants a special meeting - it would have been better to have it next week."

Crs Mark Weragoda and James Williams are in support of the special meeting. 

Chief executive Craig Niemann said special meetings were part of council process. 

"We have a council obligation to provide the council plan for public consultation and want to tie it in with the release of the budget," he said. 

"This is one of the most important documents for council and we would normally do it in time with a ordinary council meeting but this year the timing didn't work out like that. 

"We are required to have it complete by June 30 and need 28 days of public comment. 

"To be able to do this and receive public comment and make changes, which takes two months, we needed to hold it this week.

"We don't just create a special meeting because we want to."

Mayor Barry Lyons urged Cr Cox to reconsider his decision not to attend the meetings but Cr Cox said to release the documents at a special meeting “belittled their importance”.

“I will not be attending as a matter of conscience as I believe it undermines democracy and my role as a councillor,” he said.

Cr Cox said he was concerned that it could become common practice to release important documents at special meetings.

"I raised this issue with council three months ago when they first discussed a special meeting to release the council plan," he said.

"But now they've also decided to release the draft council budget at a special meeting and to me that’s a breakdown of the democratic process."

The first special meeting is tonight at 6.30pm at Bendigo Town Hall. The others are planned for May 21 and June 25.

Cr Cox said the meetings went against the Local Government Act because no resolution had been made to call them. But Cr Lyons said he had authorised the notice to call tonight’s meeting as mayor, making it valid.

“Cr Peter Cox is a respected member of council and I am disappointed that he has decided on this course of action," Cr Lyons said.

“The council plan and the budget for 2014-2015 are very important and I am sure that Whipstick Ward residents would want Peter to be sitting at the council table when these matters are discussed and decided upon," he said.

“Special meetings are not always held to consider the draft council plan or budget, but in this instance it was necessary in order to receive and adequately consider all submissions from community groups and residents to the council plan before it has to be adopted by June 30, which is a requirement of the Local Government Act.”

Cr Lyons said the council would keep residents informed following the special meetings and encourage submissions.

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