UPDATE 6.30pm: The City of Greater Bendigo has defended extensive road closures put in place for the Queen’s Baton Relay, citing strict security requirements of the event.
Hosting the event cost the city about $30,000, with the council responsible for implementing road closures and the traffic management plan.
The city centre was blocked to vehicles from 6am to at least 11am in places as 19 people passed the baton destined for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Commuters and business owners expressed frustration at the widespread and prolonged closures on Wednesday, affecting traffic and trade for the five hours the blocks were in place.
City of Greater Bendigo tourism and major events manager Terry Karamaloudis said the timing and extent of the road closures was informed by advice from both Victoria Police and the Australian Federal Police.
“There is tight security surrounding the relay, which is not determined by the city, but by GOLDOC (Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation) and the federal police,” he said.
“New federal terrorism regulation relating to crowd protection also affected the road closures.”
Most of the money spent by council was in the development and implementation of the traffic management plan, including security staff, fencing, writing to residents and businesses as well as operating a security hub on the day.
There were also costs associated with hosting the civic event to welcome the baton at Rosalind Park.
Mr Karamaloudis said the early closure of roads – 6am in Bendigo for a relay start time of 9.30am – was needed to allow for security sweeps by police to occur.
The route itself was determined by event organisers, the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation.
“There were a number of specifications and requirements that the relay route had to meet and the City worked with GOLDOC to meet those requirements and minimise the impact on the community,” Mr Karamaloudis said.
The baton passed through Ballarat on Tuesday and instead of blanket road closures, the city shut down streets in rolling blocks.
Roads were reopened following the passage of the relay convoy and no section was estimated to be closed for more than an hour and 15 minutes.
The only exception was Wendouree Parade, which was closed for the community celebration at the lake from 11am to 4pm.
Mr Karamaloudis said it was not possible to close and reopen roads as the relay passed through Bendigo.
“Rolling closures were not permissible under the strict security requirements of the event, set by GOLDOC and Victoria and federal police,” he said.
“The roads were opened as soon as it was safe to do so.”
EARLIER: Widespread road closures have created a headache for commuters and businesses alike as the Queen’s Baton Relay passed through Bendigo on Wednesday.
The city centre was blocked to vehicles for much of the morning as 19 people passed the baton destined for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Goornong’s Samantha Morris said she was furious over the road closures as her daughter missed school because of them.
“She rang me at 8.30am and said there was no buses from the train station to Eaglehawk so I had to come into town to collect her,” she said.
“Traffic was so slow and she had to wait in town until I could get there. Road closures are a bloody joke for this. Totally inconvenient.”
Similarly, Ann Watson said getting school buses through traffic was a nightmare as well as for parents getting their children to school.
But she said all drivers were patient and obliging letting each other in from side roads around the schools involved.
“Drivers should be congratulated on their patience,” she said.
Traffic delays felt throughout city
Amanda Burgess was left frustrated after leaving early in anticipation of a longer trip only to find it took her an hour and a half to get from home to daycare and onto work.
“That trip usually only takes me 30 minutes tops,” she said.
“Nothing like being late thanks to poor council organisation and preparation.”
The City of Greater Bendigo has been contacted for comment.
Skye Whiteman said the event was not well thought out.
“It took us an hour to get from California Gully to Bendigo TAFE. Absolutely ridiculous,” she said.
“Let's hope this brings a bucket load of money into the city so it's at least worth it. [I] can't even get into the city to see it!”
Kylie Ruxton was also of the opinion more thought could have gone into the planning.
“I get that it's something exciting and not something we see everyday, but honestly, I struggled to find a way home after work this morning,” she said.
“Every road was closed and my journey home took double the time it normally would.”
Businesses feeling the cost
Brad Hall said the closures should have been done as a rolling road block.
“I work at Bendigo Yamaha in town, so this directly affects our business when we can least afford it,” he said.
“I think the road blocks were excessive as we were blocked off but our street (Bridge Street) was not involved in any way.”
He said one person made it through the doors during the morning-long road blocks.
Caroline Duncan said it was a lot of inconvenience to businesses, with no one watching it.
“I worked from home today because I realised it was going to be mayhem to get to my office in the CBD,” she said.
“I'm fortunate I can do that though and I know not everyone has that option. What's the economic cost of this I wonder?”
Relay a special occasion for some
Not everyone was disgruntled by the closures though.
Christine Lockett attended the relay with her son and was in prime position to watch the celebrations in Rosalind Park.
“It's a very special occasion, very momentous for Bendigo,” she said.
“I'm very glad I could bring my son down to experience the relay.”
Mark Leonard travelled from Geelong to Bendigo to watch the morning unfold.
“When events like the relay happen in country towns, it always is a great boost for everyone," he said.
“The whole town stops to watch and be a part of the action. I can't wait to watch the games in April.”
Tim Murphy said he was surprised when he went for a walk with his daughter and found out there was an event on in Bendigo.
“It is fantastic,” he said.
“I often come into Bendigo to take my daughter for a walk, and then all of a sudden there was a massive event happening – it is just great.
“It is a bit like Tour de France or Tour Down Under. It creates a real atmosphere that just sparks up in the middle of the town.”