Heated debate as big issues get approval

HOT TOPICS: Councillors Elise Chapman, Peter Cox and Helen Leach. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

HOT TOPICS: Councillors Elise Chapman, Peter Cox and Helen Leach. Picture: BRENDAN McCARTHY

PLANS to build a McDonalds in California Gully, the City of Greater Bendigo 2014-15 Budget, development at High Street boulevard and a Costerfield mine expansion have been given the green light - but not without heated debate among councillors. 

Cr Peter Cox, who voted against the Budget, claimed he was gagged and denied his democratic right after councillors refused to grant an extension for him to continue speaking to the motion on Wednesday night. 

He said he had spent months poring over the Budget to outline efficiencies which could help reduce the rate rise. 

"There's not a day that goes by that you don't see (council spending) excesses," he said. 

"Savings can be made without cutting services."

Crs Helen Leach and Elise Chapman also opposed the budget, stating a six per cent rate rise was unfair. 

Residents applauded when Cr Chapman said residents were not getting good value for money with their rates.

"Residents feel council is not listening to them and I agree," she said. 

Cr Leach argued that the council should direct more funds outside of the CBD and work towards a one per cent efficiency across the board.

But Mayor Barry Lyons said ratepayers got a lot of bang for their buck, noting council's dedication to provide roads, recreation, drainage, rubbish collection and trees to residents across the region. 

Crs Mark Weragoda, Lisa Ruffell, Rod Fyffe and Rod Campbell also supported the Budget, saying the rate rise was necessary for the region's growth. 

Cr James Williams was absent from the meeting. 

"People move to Bendigo because of council's undying committment to works and projects," Cr Weragoda said. 

Approval of a McDonalds in California Gully was met with groans and anger from residents in the chamber. 

The 24-hour restaurant could create up to 90 jobs.  

Cr Lisa Ruffell argued there were already too many fast food restaurants in Bendigo and noted health concerns in that particular area. 

But Cr Cox, who moved the motion with revised conditions, said the proposal should be taken on planning merits - not the type of food it was serving. 

"Unfortunately with planning matters the type of business is not taken into consideration," he said. 

A proposal to heighten the dam walls at the Brunswick Mine site in Costerfield was also met with contention. 

Cr Cox said mining company Mandalay Rescources had not followed best practice and called on the council to consider its  concerning past in the region. 

However Cr Leach said while there were health concerns, without the expansion, the mine would cease to exist.

In other news, councillors unanimously praised plans to encourage development at the High Street boulevard, saying it would help create a buzzing precinct. 

The Bendigo Stadium Masterplan draft was also released for public comment. 

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