Councillors debate big ticket items

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CITY of Greater Bendigo councillors have approved several big ticket planning proposals for Bendigo, including the Kangaroo Flat Aquatic Centre and redevelopment of the Shamrock Hotel.

The $30 million aquatic centre proposal - which includes the demolition of the current leisure facility in Kangaroo Flat - came under fire from several councillors.

A 740-signature strong petition calling on the retention of the current Kangaroo Flat leisure centre was tabled at the meeting, with Crs Helen Leach, Elise Chapman and Peter Cox agreeing the centre should be saved.

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

He added the proposed $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. 

The proposal requires upwards of $10 million in further funding to go ahead and Cr Helen Leach said council should wait until all funds were secured before approving the plans.

But in moving the motion, Cr Rod Fyffe said tabling plans would help convince prospective funders. 

Councillor James Williams also supported the proposal, saying it was part of the long-term strategic council plan.

Cr Rod Campbell added 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. 

Plans to build nine five-star apartments at Bendigo's Shamrock Hotel were unanimously supported by councillors, however owner Jim Hogan says the development will not go ahead unless council withdraws its opposition to extra poker machines at the site.

An official apology from Cr Lisa Ruffell was also tabled at the meeting, following a misconduct finding against her.

An independent state government Code of Conduct Panel found Cr Ruffell did not give Crs Elise Chapman and Helen Leach a chance to respond following a complaint against the two councillors. 

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

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

"We were tried, tested and charged without even knowing about it," she said.

"We were denied our right to respond and all we ever wanted was an apology from the mayor and CEO.  

"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 also accepted Cr Ruffell's apology, adding "what a shame it has come to this".

In other council news, the Barrack Street play space in Heathcote will also be upgraded, after councillors went against the council recommendation and voted 5-4 to leave the play space at the same site.

Councillors also approved $252,000 in waste reserve funding to further investigate the White Hills and Miller Street tip sites

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

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