“If they (Bendigo council) want to build a business park they'll have to go and find some land and buy it on the open market like everybody else has to do and not try to take it off someone.”
Max Carter’s defiant words following the state government’s decision this week to save a section of his family farm from compulsory acquisition raise some questions about the future direction of the Bendigo council’s hunt for suitable land to create a business park.
The council says it has considered eight other sites for an industrial park, but pursued family-owned land in Marong for a number of years given its strategic location.
But what are the other options?
A Bendigo Future Industrial Land Strategy 2006 details sites in Elmore, Myers Flat, Goornong/Baghsot, Sebastian/Woodvale and Ravenswood, alongside two sites in Marong, one of which is now unachievable.
The strategy, completed by independent, now-defunct engineering firm Connell Wagner gave each site an overall score factoring in affordability, availability, land quality and access to transport links among others.
Myers Flat, Sebastian/Woodvale, and Elmore, according to the report, were the best of the rest.
The report concluded: “There is no such thing as the perfect industrial site. As such, key issues, including the management of environmental effects, buffers from any nearby sensitive uses, and the like will need to be managed with care for the benefit of the long term future of the industrial area. The challenges in this regard for the Marong West land are no more or less than for any other parcel of land in the municipality.”
Going further back to 2002, another council report lists sites in Epsom and East Bendigo as potential options, although none are of the size sought with a section of the Carters farm – 311 hectares.
Commercial and industrial director at DCK real estate Robert Ketterer said the site in Marong ‘made a lot of sense’.
“Elmore, Goornong, yes the heavy transport routes are there but it means you've got increased traffic touching the city,” he said.
He suggested growth areas like Marong and Maiden Gully may be deemed suitable for a site because there’s housing opportunities.
“It needs a lot of space – most of the industrial land that's around Bendigo at the moment is impacted by adjoining residential use,” he said, adding the council shouldn’t give up on its plans for a park as it’s ‘something the city needs’.
Mayor Margaret O’Rourke said this week the council would need to revisit the other options considered to see if they were still viable.
Compulsory acquisition was not the council’s favoured option, said Cr O’Rourke, who did not rule out it happening in the future.
“We didn't want it to go to public acquisition - we would have preferred a mediated conversation. It's very likely that (public acquisition) could happen - part of our reasoning for the land in Marong is that it was one owner - the other sites we looked at are multiple owners,” she said.