A former Bendigo mayor has urged the current council to abandon plans to forcibly purchase land west of the city for a business park.
On the eve of a crucial meeting, during which councillors will vote on whether to place a public acquisition overlay on 313-hectares of land owned by the Carter family, Alec Sandner suggested a recommendation to vote in favour of the forced sale was “totally wrong”.
“Abandon it,” he said.
"This thing has been a c**k up since day one."
Mr Sandner, mayor in 2011-12, questioned the council’s estimation the Marong Business Park would create 3500 jobs for the region.
He said there were inconsistencies in the figures quoted by council’s expert witness at a planning panel hearing on the business park in 2016 and an economic report prepared for council in 2012.
Mr Sandner, in urging councillors to vote against the sale, said conclusions of the independent planning panel were being ignored.
The panel found there was insufficient justification for the City of Greater Bendigo to compulsorily acquire property in Marong to build the business park, when other options were available.
Bendigo council has considered seven other sites for the industrial park, but the land in Marong was deemed the most strategically placed.
Mr Sandner said if the council gets the land, fixing groundwater issues at the site would impact plenty of neighbouring farms’ productivity.
“Purely and simply we need productive farming land for food,” he said on Tuesday
Mr Sandner believed the decision by council to pursue land for a business park without having the means to fund its development was illogical.
The COGB said it will cost $25 million for the infrastructure at the industrial park, and the total project is estimated at $100m.
“They should get a firm commitment and then go to the people (landowners) because there's no guarantee they'll get the money,” he said.
COGB chief executive officer Craig Niemann last week said he was confident of securing state government funds for the project.
On the issue of groundwater and jobs, COGB director of strategy and growth Bernie O’Sullivan said the planning panel concluded that flooding and drainage issues could be addressed in a manner that does not preclude the subject land being developed as a business park.
Council would provide neighbouring properties impacted by dewatering with alternative stock and domestic supply, he said.
The figure of 3500 jobs was a conservative, base level estimate from a report which reviewed industrial land supply in Greater Bendigo in 2012, Mr O’Sullivan said.
Councillors will on Wednesday vote on the forced sale and if approved, the overlay will be forwarded to the planning minister to make a final decision.