City of Greater Bendigo pitches advantages of region to a federal government select committee on regional development and decentralisation

COME OVER: Bendigo mayor Margaret O'Rourke and chief executive officer Craig Niemann present Bendigo's decentralisation case on Monday.
COME OVER: Bendigo mayor Margaret O'Rourke and chief executive officer Craig Niemann present Bendigo's decentralisation case on Monday.

The region’s emerging health and education sectors could be key factors that drive a push to decentralise government or corporate departments to Bendigo.

Those sectors, combined with Bendigo’s existing financial hub, make the city an attract venue for public sector relocation, according to the city’s mayor and chief executive officer.

In delivering a presentation to a federal government select committee on regional development and decentralisation, mayor Margaret O’Rourke and CEO Craig Niemann said transport connectivity and city aesthetics were two priorities going forward.

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“Finance is one area we have strength and a competitive advantage, defence procurement is another one and also probably higher education we think we have some strengths in a regional setting,” Mr Niemann said on Monday.

Mayor Margaret O’Rourke, referencing the new Bendigo Hospital, said the city was an emerging health care leader. 

In a wide-ranging discussion with federal MPs sitting on the committee, Cr O’Rourke said she was “staggered” with the amount of cost shifting between state and federal governments to local government.

“When there are policy changes that happen, local government is often the collector or the administrator of that, but they actually wear the brunt and I think there needs to be some realignment with that,” she said.

Speaking to media prior to the presentation, chair of the select committee John McVeigh said it wasn’t the committee’s job to “pick winners”, or prioritise what agency went where.

“I think the future of our whole country rests on the shoulders of regional Australia,” he said.

The committee would urge corporate Australia to decentralise, Mr McVeigh said.

“We’re a big country, we’ve got tremendous opportunities and I think that’s ripe for development in the long-term,” he said.

Geography, transport and communication connectivity were considerations any corporation or government agency would take into account when considering decentralisation, Mr McVeigh said.

Federal member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters said: “We have the largest finance sector hub in regional Australia that already employs over 1000 people. We have all the infrastructure so why does this government keep moving jobs to the big cities?”

“Bendigo needs to be given a fair hearing from a government that has been decimating our industries and making it even harder for regional businesses, workers and communities.”

The state budget papers for 2017-18 show $1 million will be provided to Bendigo in 2017-18 to develop a proposal to “consolidate Victorians public service and council functions and agencies into a new customer service centre”.