Bendigo council meeting: Live updates

BENDIGO WRAP: Councillors debate hot topics

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UPDATE 8.26PM: Tonight's meeting wraps up with councillors giving their reports. 

We will be uploading full stories at www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au later tonight, and be sure to find our full wrap in tomorrow's print edition. 

UPDATE 8.15PM: Proceedings almost wrapped up. Now onto some smaller agenda items, including the fourth quarter report and independent review implementation. 

Only five audience members left. 

UPDATE 8PM: Cr Elise Chapman is talking about the VCAT misconduct finding. A lot of emotion in her voice. 

She said her and Cr Helen Leach "had been tried and charged without even knowing about it". 

For background, an independent state government Code of Conduct Panel delivered a finding of misconduct against Cr Lisa Ruffell earlier this year over her handling of a complaint against councillors Leach and Elise Chapman.

Disability organisation Amicus alleged the two councillors acted inappropriately towards one of their clients. 

It was found that Cr Ruffell did not give the councillors an opportunity to respond, however Cr Ruffell appealed the finding. 

It was later agreed the misconduct finding would be dropped if Cr Ruffell made an official apology to her fellow councillors. 

This apology will be tabled at tonight's meeting. 

Cr Chapman said while she accepted the apology, it was "unfathomable" how she was treated. 

"All we ever wanted was an apology from the mayor and CEO," she said. 

"It is disappointing that what should have been a common courtesy has had to be directed after a code of conduct and ordered by VCAT.

"This has brought no good light to the council."

Cr Leach said she also accepted Cr Ruffell's apology but said "what a shame it has come to this".

UPDATE 7.50PM: The White Hills and Miller Street tip sites investigation up now. 

Councillors are recommended to approve $252,000 in waste reserve funding to further investigate both the former landfills. 

The money will help evaluate the risks to human health and the environment and determine the extent of any rehabilitation or remediation required.

Crs Rod Campbell and James Williams agree the investigation is needed to progress forward with the clean up. 

Cr Peter Cox asks for a report detailing council's responsibility for the waste reserve fund. 

He has concerns there is not much money left for the Eaglehawk tip site, which will soon need rehabilitation. 

"There must be a much more sensible approach to this issue," he said. 

The motion is approved.

UPDATE 7.40PM: Not many members of the public left in the chamber now. 

Councillors onto plans to create a sister city relationship with the Chinese city of Haimen.

If supported by councillors, a small delegation including mayor Barry Lyons and chief executive Craig Niemann will visit Haimen. 

It is estimated to cost $7500.

Cr Rod Fyffe says it is no junket, but Cr Helen Leach argues it is. 

"I question what what ratepayers are getting out of it," Cr Leach said. 

"I think two sister city relationships are enough and ... we should be cutting back on our spending instead of going ahead with this."

Cr Mark Weragoda says sister cities are very important and build strong economic and cultural links. 

Cr Peter Cox also supports the motion, saying the small cost of the visit would be worthwhile in the long run. 

Motion carried, with Cr Lisa Ruffell requesting that the mayor and chief executive "bring back lots of nice things for us". 

UPDATE 7.30PM: Crs Peter Cox and Elise Chapman throw their support behind leaving the playground where it is, saying it is a bigger site and allowed for greater opportunities. 

Motion approved in a 5-4 vote - the playground will be upgraded but left at the Barrack Reserve site. 

UPDATE 7.15PM: Heathcote play space debate up now. 

Council officers recommend it be moved, but Cr Rod Campbell moves alternate motion to leave the Barrack Reserve play space where it is.

He said more could be done with the upgrade if it remained at the reserve. 

"The majority want it left where it is... And the children want more play equipment and we can only afford this if it is left where it is," he said. 

Cr Leach supports the alternate motion, but Cr Lisa Ruffell says council must progress and move the location of the play space. 

The debate comes after an 880-signature petition calling for the play space to be upgraded or replaced following months of inaction will also be presented to the council. 

The petition, tabled last month, stated the replacement of the aged and depleted equipment at the existing playground was "long overdue". 

UPDATE 7.10PM: Councillors debate new City of Greater Bendigo heritage plan. Up next, an update on the Heathcote play space.

UPDATE 7.05PM: Councillors unanimously support development at the Shamrock Hotel, saying the plans would help improve Bendigo CBD. 

But owner Jim Hogan says plans will not go ahead unless council withdraws its opposition to extra poker machines at the site.

UPDATE 7PM: Councillors move to table the aquatic centre proposal. Three councillors against: Crs Chapman, Leach and Cox. 

Now onto Shamrock Hotel debate, with proposal detailing partial demolition of the site to allow for nine five-star apartments and a swimming pool. 

Cr Campbell moves to support the motion. Cr Williams seconds it, saying the demolition will not affect the heritage value of the site.

UPDATE 6.50PM: Councillor James Williams supports the proposal, saying it is part of the long-term strategic council plan - but Cr Elise Chapman says while a larger pool is needed, it's in the wrong location. 

She also questioned the sustainability of the centre, saying 1500 people would have to use it every day just to break even. 

UPDATE 6.45PM: Cr Peter Cox says the Browning Street aquatic centre proposal is an excellent idea, but too large for what Bendigo can afford. 

He said the $30 million facility would drain resources from other Bendigo projects and leave little money for the future. 

"I believe it's about responsible financial management and realising we do not need to approve this proposal tonight," Cr Cox said. 

He said another issue was the intention to destroy the existing asset in the area. 

"This building is 30 years old and cost half a million dollars at the time, which was raised by the residents," he said. 

UPDATE 6.40PM: Cr Helen Leach says plans for the aquatic centre are "totally dishonest and obscure". 

"They don't mention the demolition of the current facility but we all know that will happen," she said. 

"I also think it's a little premature because all funds necessary are not yet available. Shouldn't we wait until all the money and information is available before we approve this?

"Yes, 2000 residents want a 50-metre pool but they don't mention where - it could be anywhere.

"I think we are doing people a disservice by approving this and I speak against this at this stage."

UPDATE 6.30PM: The petition is tabled. Now onto the official Kangaroo Flat Aquatic Centre, which Cr Rod Fyffe says is a great step forward for the region. 

The centre requires further funding to progress, but Cr Fyffe said tabling plans would help convince prospective funders. 

"This is what the community wants," he said. 

"We need to approve this so people know we are fair dinkum and we can move forward."

Cr Rod Campbell said the council could continue to talk with the community about retaining the old facility - but it was important to get the planning matters sorted first. 

UPDATE 6.25PM: Cr Leach asks if any other pools will be shut as a result of the new Kangaroo Flat Aquatic Centre. 

CEO Craig Niemann says yes - three of the region's pools will be shut down, which has been public for some time.

UPDATE 6.15PM: A 740-signature strong petition calling on the retention of the current Kangaroo Flat leisure centre is before councillors. 

It also asks for council officers to meet with community representatives to discuss the matter. 

In supporting the petition, Councillor Helen Leach says it makes sense to retain the purpose-built facility. 

"Do we have the right to deny them of this facility?" she said. 

"The (residents) love this hall, it's theirs, and it just needs a little TLC." 

Cr Elise Chapman backed her comments, saying the hall could definitely be retained.

"It is disgraceful that no alternative design has been considered and councillors have not had the chance to save the current facility," she said. 

UPDATE 6.12PM: Cr Mark Weragoda is sharing his councillor report. 

Up next - Kangaroo Flat aquatic centre and Shamrock Hotel development plans. 

UPDATE 6.10PM: Many residents are asking about the Kangaroo Flat Aquatic Centre proposal in public question time. 

One man has concerns about the need to demolish the existing leisure centre in Kangaroo Flat, which he says is the most used facility in the region. 

Council director Stan Liacos says the proposal comes after two years of detailed design work, and councillors endorsed the demolition 18 months ago. 

Mr Liacos also confirmed no demolition will take place until funding has been secured for the new centre. 

He said analysis showed the old centre was not worth keeping, but assured users they will have a place to go. 

"Not all users will be able to be relocated to the new centre but they will be relocated to other facilities in Kangaroo Ground and surrounds," he said. 

UPDATE 5.50PM: The City of Greater Bendigo council meeting is about to get underway. 

About two dozen people are in the chamber, with many big ticket items on the agenda tonight. 

First up is the $30 Kangaroo Flat Aquatic Centre development, which has received five objections. Councillors have been recommended to table the plans. 

EARLIER: A PROPOSAL to build nine apartments at the Shamrock Hotel, funding to investigate the White Hills tip site, a finalised plan for the $30 million Kangaroo Flat Aquatic and Leisure Centre and a misconduct finding will come before City of Greater Bendigo councillors tonight. 

The Bendigo Advertiser will be updating live from the chamber. 

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