Bendigo council candidate thinks recreation can improve residents' lot in life

A candidate in this year's council election wants more free, recreational activities in Bendigo, a move he believes will reduce anti-social behaviour and break residents' unhealthy habits.  

Hargreaves Mall could become a venue for buskers and jumping castles, and Bendigo’s bicycle infrastructure would be prioritised, if John Cooper is successful in his bid for one of three Lockwood ward seats next month.   

The 41-year-old Kangaroo Flat resident said more opportunities for recreation would mean fewer people were dependent on vices like smoking, drinking and gambling.

"They're doing these escapist things because they're bored," Mr Cooper said.  

Mr Cooper has lived in Bendigo since 2009, operating a home maintenance business.

A desire to help those in need was the reason behind his first foray into politics, he said, explaining the role of councillor would be his “main job”, while his remaining time was spent volunteering.    

A member of the Australian Sex Party, Mr Cooper will contest the election as an independent. 

But he said the ASXP’s focus on “progress and inclusiveness” were also the basic tenants of his election platform and were the reasons behind his support of Bendigo’s Safe Schools lobby group and the Bendigo Autistic Advocacy and Support Service.  

A city’s strength relied on the diversity of its population, Mr Cooper explained, saying he would also support religious groups who wanted to build places of worship in Bendigo.

“When you start getting homogeneous, that’s when you stagnate,” he said.

“Working towards a goal of making everyone healthier and happier in every aspect means, as a society or as a township, we’ll be more prosperous.”

Public transport was also a priority for Mr Cooper, who has plans for more frequent bus services and sheltered bus stops. 

He would raise the possibility of compulsory, free desexing of pets too if elected, as well as a reduced registration fee for animals that were microchipped.  

Since 2012, Lockwood has been represented by mayor Rod Fyffe and councillors Elise Chapman and Barry Lyons. 

Matt Emond, Vaughan Williams, Jan Pagliaro and Jennifer Alden are among those to announce their candidacy for the ward. 

From September 15, candidates have just five days to register their intention to run in the October 22 vote. 

The ward takes in Maiden Gully, Marong, West Bendigo, Golden Square, Kangaroo Flat, Quarry Hill, Spring Gully, Mandurang, Big Hill and Lockwood.