Editorial: Bendigo's infrastructure must keep pace with population growth

IMAGINE it is the year 2050 and there are 300,000 people – double the existing population – calling the Greater Bendigo region home.

Now imagine the infrastructure needed to adequately house, transport, employ, feed, water, educate and entertain all those citizens.

One only has to look at the current shortfalls in the city’s infrastructure to realise that Bendigo faces a monumental challenge to keep pace with its growth.

The city has recently been furnished with a brand new $650 million public hospital that, providing it can be staffed, will hold the region in good stead for decades to come.

However, countless millions more will need to be spent on other key infrastructure projects to ensure the standard of living Bendigonians currently enjoy is enhanced, not diminished. Many of our roads – both major and minor – are cracking under the pressure of an increase in traffic and a decrease in money to maintain them.

The public transport system, particularly in the past year, has been nothing short of a disaster, afflicted by one calamity after another.

There is also a dearth of affordable housing that is putting stress on families, and an estimated 40,000 new homes will need to be built to cater for the growing population.

The City of Greater Bendigo’s draft discussion paper, which went before councillors last night, contains some 70 suggested infrastructure projects.

Some are absolutely essential, such as managing the city’s rising groundwater problem. Others are more aspirational, such as building a major events stadium at the showgrounds. To guide the council on which to prioritise and which to shelve, residents will be encouraged to vote for the five most important and five least important projects, as well as suggest any that are not included in the draft.

At the end of the process, the City of Greater Bendigo will have a list of up to 15 projects – endorsed by both council and the community – to pursue.

But then the hard work really starts.

Each of these projects will cost money. Some will likely cost many millions of dollars that cannot be raised through council rates alone.

Our elected representatives will certainly have their work cut out trying to shake loose funding from the state and federal governments of the day.

- Ross Tyson, deputy editor

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