New Bendigo ratepayers group hopes to rebuild trust between council and community, improve council practices

THE new Greater Bendigo Ratepayers Association says it will avoid taking an “adversarial” approach to its dealings with the City of Greater Bendigo, and hopes greater consultation will help repair any distrust between the community and the council.

The ratepayers association held its first annual general meeting last month and a nine-person committee was formed from its membership of 30.

Colin Burns was chosen to be president, and he hoped to help the council solve issues in a transparent way that benefited ratepayers.

Mr Burns said he was confident of having positive discussions with mayor Margaret O’Rourke in the future, and he believed the association could help to repair any distrust the community had with council.

“We don’t want to be adversarial, we want to work with the council to solve issues facing Bendigo,” he said.

“You can see the council is trying to repair issues from the past, and there’s still room for improvement. A lot of decisions are being made behind closed doors and we want to see improvements in transparency.

“Marg is open to discussions. She has a more community-based mindset.”

The committee will meet in the coming weeks to determine its priorities, with plans to hold regular meetings with the mayor and other councillors.

Mr Burns said identifying appropriate land for industrial use in Bendigo was likely to be one of the main focuses following the council’s failure to acquire the Carter land at Marong.

He said each committee member was entitled to hold personal views about matters, but the Ratepayers Association would act in a democratic and “grass roots” way in determining its approach.

Other issues that could be raised include council staffing levels, its expenditure priorities and “inadequacy of real community engagement”. The group formed in June, but original president Leighton Rawlings chose not to continue in the role.

The formation of a new ratepayers association was welcomed by the City of Greater Bendigo. The city has been without a similar body for at least 10 years.

Mayor Margaret O’Rourke said more community involvement with council was a good thing.

“Now a committee has been formed, I would welcome meeting with committee members to discuss the issues and opportunities for Greater Bendigo as they see them and also provide an update on council business,” she said.

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