BENDIGO should not be dictated to by the state and federal governments and should forge its own path, says Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle.
Cr Doyle, a former state opposition leader, met with Bendigo community leaders on Wednesday.
He said the key to future of the growing city was listening to the people who lived here.
“I think the determinant for Bendigo should be Bendigo,” Mr Doyle said.
“You shouldn’t be told what to do out of Spring Street or out of Canberra.
“And that means, from time to time – even though I come from one side of politics – you have to stand up against your own side as well.”
Cr Doyle said the public voice was an important one.
“That’s the voice you have to have,” he said.
“Whether you’re talking to Spring Street or whether you’re talking to Canberra, you are the voice of Bendigo - you are the ones who should determine what’s good for Bendigo and then you carry that voice either into Spring Street or into Canberra.”
Cr Doyle also encouraged public discussion around direct mayoral elections, which are used in Geelong.
“I think that's a matter for really good public conversation in Bendigo,” he said.
Cr Doyle said Bendigo appeared to be heading in the right direction, and said he had a better experience than his previous visit.
“I’m remarkably impressed,” he said.
“My last concerted visit was in 2002, and I must say, back then I didn’t have a very happy experience in the Hargreaves Mall.
“And what struck me about that was, how could someone do that in their own city?
“What sort of respect does that show for your own public space, where someone thinks it’s okay to drop their tracksuit pants in the middle of Hargreaves Mall?
“I suspect that wouldn’t happen today.”
Bendigo mayor Barry Lyons agreed with aspects of direct mayoral elections.
“I think maybe the public could have a say after councillors are elected,” he said.
“Maybe they could pick out their preference for the mayor. I also think the mayor's term should be at least two years.
“You just get comfortable in a position and when you’re at six months, there’s only six months to go and then you’re out."