8.29pm: Councillors have also quickly handled the financial report for the March quarter, with a unanimous agreement.
They're about to wrap up the public aspect of the meeting.
And they have.
Please, as always, send any questions or information you'd like to draw to our attention through to the newsroom at email@example.com and we'll do our best to address them.
8.27pm: While we've been hastily trying to get a separate story about the GovHub up, the council has moved a motion about the City of Greater Bendigo Reconciliation Plan.
Council was unanimous in doing so, and councillors acknowledged the progress in reconciliation efforts to this point.
But there was a long way still to go.
8.15pm: What we have is a diverse range of views, there is no two ways about that, Cr Fyffe said.
He believed the different focuses of each councillor in speaking about it indicated the council was going about it the right way.
"Thank you everyone for your contribution," Cr Fyffe said.
All those in favour: Cr Emond, Fyffe, Hawke, Pethybridge, Williams and O'Rourke
Against: Cr Flack, Cr Metcalf.
Abstaining: Cr Alden.
Six votes in favour, two votes against and one abstaining. The motion has passed.
8.08pm: Cr O'Rourke is also having her say. She said it was clear to her why the project was significant, given the impacts of having the sites separated in "what is regarded as average to poor accommodation."
"The financial risk is too significant to build the GovHub ourselves, in my view," she said.
She said there had been discussions since the in-principle agreement and since leasing temporary offices in Fountain Court.
Cr O'Rourke said a project like this had never been more important, given the COVID-19 environment.
She needs an extension of time, and has been granted it.
Retailers, she said, had been keen to know if the GovHub was going ahead.
The mayor said she had never doubted the benefits of the GovHub and is running through many of them, calling this a once in a generation opportunity.
She said she understood not everyone in the community was happy with the decision to sell the land.
"Council is not in a financial position to build a Govhub on its own," Cr O'Rourke said.
She said a building just for council staff didn't meet Bendigo's needs.
Another extension needed.
The mayor said she appreciated the input of those who had contacted her, both for and against the proposal.
She's for it, wholeheartedly.
Cr Fyffe is summing up.
8.05pm: Bendigo's newest councillor, Cr Hawke, is speaking. She's pointed out she wasn't involved in the in-principle decision, but she has had a lot of meetings to catch her up.
Cr Hawke said she'd also been contacted by community members not happy with the decision.
She said she could see the economic benefits of this new venture, and believed it was a good economic decision.
"It is also about community health and wellbeing, really," Cr Hawke said.
"Another plus I can see with moving forward with this recommendation is it provides the go-ahead to develop a brand new workplace.
"You really can't underestimate the impact of a new building and a new way of working to improve the culture of a workplace."
She said she completely understood many people having differences in opinion on the matter.
She's been granted an extension of time.
"I do believe the City of Greater Bendigo have done all they can to bring people along on this decision," Cr Hawke said.
7.58pm: Cr Emond says he has a question to the CEO. He has asked Craig Niemann to clarify why Urbis was consulted and why there were two additional items to consider.
This land can be better utilised, Cr Emond said, nothing that his thoughts on the sale of the land had changed since becoming more informed as a councillor and that insinuations the council was being led in its decisions was insulting.
He says the sale of the land is prudent financial management.
He's now asking a question to director Andrew Cooney, regarding interest rates.
"We haven't done any of the analysis around low-interest rates," Mr Cooney said.
Under the guidance of the decision made by the councillors, he says that wasn't analysed.
Cr Emond says the council wasn't equipped to deal with the risks associated with building its own offices.
"What the sale of this land does create is 100 new public sector jobs," Cr Emond says.
The sale of this land is prudent, he says, to secure the prosperity of future generations.
"I think it's an opportunity too good to miss," Cr Emond said.
7.48pm: Cr Metcalf is speaking to the proposal. She said she hasn't had one resident speak to her in favour of the proposal.
She's addressing the background of the proposal, which is quite detailed.
I will listen back to the recording of this interview and fill in the gaps, but what she's already highlighted so far are concerns about council's claims of community consultation.
Cr Metcalf has been offered an extension of time to speak.
Nowhere can I see evidence of extensive community consultation, she says.
I've seen no evidence to suggest the cost-sharing and co-tenancy statement.
None of the decisions discuss the sale of the land, she said.
Cr Metcalf said she was not opposed to a GovHub. She was concerned about the sale of the land.
She's also highlighting some red flags arising from independent reports.
No final Urbis report has ever been provided, Cr Metcalf said.
Extension of time, again.
Just one month later councillors voted in principle of the current recommendation.
She's pointing out the issue of parking and the funding issues that could involve.
Cr Metcalf's speech has drawn on interactions with former councillor Lisa Ruffell.
Cr Metcalf does not support the GovHub proposal before the council.
She believes the true cost of the proposal will be revealed, in time, and that the council has been steered towards one option since 2016.
Another extension of time.
She was talking about how those who believed the GovHub might be the panacea of the city centre revitalisation might like to reflect on the Bendigo Bank's Bendigo Centre.
Cr Metcalf is winding up her speech, by saying she does not support the recommendation.
7.44pm: Cr Alden said civil infrastructure could create a lasting legacy.
"This proposal does that," she said.
She's in favour.
She has acknowledged some of the sources of anxiety associated with the project.
"The project is well and truly underway," she said.
Cr Alden said she still believed a parking option should have been considered as part of the business case.
"When is a decision not a decision, when it's a foregone conclusion," she says.
She's saying she dislikes being treated as a rubber stamp.
So she's supportive of the GovHub concept but abstaining from the decision, again.
7.38pm: Cr Williams has distilled the issue down to the sale of the land.
"Any way you look at this, this is a great offer," he says.
"What the government put on the table was 100 jobs, integration of services... a one-shop location that actually provides integration with other departments we work with all the time... that leads to better outcomes."
He says the existing office can't meet current standards and is slow and inefficient, even if it was extended.
Knocking it down and starting again was the cheapest option, he said.
He's running through other options the council considered and said those were all out of bounds as far as the city's finances were concerned.
"This offer is a fantastic offer. It de-risks it," Cr Williams said.
He said the GovHub would have been the biggest project the council was undertaking.
"Council should not be in the business, generally speaking, of doing these developments," he said.
He said some of the risks associated with large projects was seen in Gurri Wanyarra.
"We've seen the confidence in this city and in the private investment and people coming here," Cr Williams said.
"The three motels didn't happen by accident."
What this does is build confidence in our region and in our city, Cr Williams said.
"What we're becoming is a real hub."
What we're giving is an efficiency to our staff to run a city that'll be 200,000 people in 50 years time, Cr Williams said.
"For me it's a bit like comparing a Fordson Tractor with a John Deere."
7.37pm: Cr George Flack says he believes the City of Greater Bendigo is capable of borrowing funds to create a ratepayer owned and operated building.
He believes there are options such as investment fund managers, construct a building and offer additional carparking.
7.32pm: "I know this is going to be a good thing for Bendigo," Cr Pethybridge said.
"We voted for the state government to build the GovHub for $90m."
Over the last 15 months he said it had been talked about, advertised, appeared in the news...
"We've talked to the public, yet we have some people say we haven't seen it," Cr Pethybridge said.
"We have explained it as much as we can."
Fifteen months ago in my talk I quoted the land was probably worth about $5 and I froze for a while and I said if anyone else can pay more than that I'll eat me hat, Cr Pethybridge said.
He said you could have knocked him over with a feather, once the valuation came back.
Working together "could move mountains", Cr Pethybridge said.
"It is less than 1 per cent of all the land the Bendigo council does own," Cr Pethybridge said.
Charging rates on the land could also provide income - something he said the city couldn't do if it owned the land.
Apparently Cr Pethybridge says Coliban Water might be interested in moving into the GovHub?
"Over 50 years of paying rent, it's not even a quarter of the price of re-building the building," he's saying.
I must be mishearing - I'm pretty sure the terms the city has spoken to so far is 40 years.
"This is a great idea," Cr Pethybridge has reiterated.
"I support it fully."
7.24pm: We're up to the GovHub.
Cr Fyffe is reading through the recommendation to councillors.
Tonight we're looking at the final outcome after the deliberation of February 2019, he said.
He's recapping the in-principle decision, leading to this point.
"I think it is an exciting one for the council - certainly an exciting one for the community," Cr Fyffe said.
He believes it is beneficial to the community, and has reiterated the councillors' roles in acting in the best interests of the community.
Cr Fyffe believes the proposed location and its centrality is important and has noticed it's a small proportion of the city's assets.
"Yes it will cost us," he said of the proposal.
But he's speaking to some of the benefits, including the lack of risks associated with building the project, which will be assumed by the state government.
He's described this as 'de-risked'.
"What we will not be doing is borrowing to the hilt," Cr Fyffe said.
"By not having our borrowings full up to capacity, we allow that..."
He's been granted an extension of time.
"What we have is the ability then to use our balance sheet to them provide other services for our community which is what they want," Cr Fyffe said.
"What we have is an ability to actually fund them."
Cr Fyffe said: Certainly one of the arguments that has been put to me a few times is that we own the building, we own the land, why don't we keep it.
He said council was in the business of providing services, not being the landlord.
"This is the one we'd never sell in a blue fit," Cr Fyffe said of the Bendigo Town Hall.
"This is an exciting proposition, I think we are heading in the right direction,"
7.20pm: Cr Alden says, in summing up, that many could remember instances when things were unequal or unfair.
"We want this strategy to help level the playing field," she said.
Unanimously carried - we have a gender equity strategy in Greater Bendigo.
Cr O'Rourke has thanked all those involved in shaping the strategy.
She looks forward to delivery on that strategy in the years to come.
7.18pm: "Gender equality is everyone's business," Cr Emond said.
He said strategies like this shaped attitudes for future generations, and there was more to be done.
He believed the strategy would go far to create change.
Cr Williams said he, too, would like to throw the support behind the very important strategy.
"For me this is just making sure that's ingrained as we move forward," he said of gender equity.
"Well done to everyone involved."
7.15pm: Cr Susie Hawke believed one of the strengths of the gender equity strategy was the huge range of people involved in putting it together.
She has highlighted the importance of attitudinal change in creating progress on the issue.
"Focusing on the early years in any of this work is also going to be really important," Cr Hawke said.
"I hope the next generation can reap the rewards."
Cr Pethybridge said he totally agreed with the strategy.
"I think we should stop violence against all... men should be involved in it as well," he said.
"It mentions violence against women, children, and I'd like men as well."
He said the different forms of violence should have been detailed in the strategy.
7.14pm: Cr Metcalf said she seconded the strategy, having highlighted a lack of progress last year.
"Tonight we finally have before us a shared gender equity framework," she said.
"Gender equity is the process of being fair to everyone. This strategy is about creating an equal playing field, and I don't want to see anyone left behind."
She said she looked forward to seeing positive outcomes from the strategy in the next five years.
7.10pm: The proposed gender equity strategy is up now. Cr Alden is speaking to it.
"A lot has happened over the past year," she said.
She said coalition members, who helped shape the proposed strategy, had already endorsed it.
Feedback had comprehensively addressed concerns.
Cr Alden said no-one would be disadvantaged by the introduction of the strategy.
"It will be when women and children live in safety, free from violence," she said, as a marker of when people might know the strategy was working.
7.07pm: Random higgledy-piddledy planning outcomes don't serve the community well at all, Cr Emond said.
He acknowledged Cr Pethybridge's comments but said the proposal was contrary to policies.
Cr Metcalf seems to believe the application is more interesting than it seems.
Cr Alden, Emond, Fyffe, Hawke, Metcalf, Williams, O'Rourke are for the recommendation, which has passed.
Cr Flack and Cr Pethybridge voted against.
7pm: Cr Alden reiterates that there is plenty of rural living land available in Bendigo.
She said the sort of activity proposed could become death by a thousand cuts.
"I support the recommendation to refuse a permit," she says.
Cr Pethybridge said he lived in the area for 13 years, so he knew the area quite well.
"When the council says this is good farming land, I can tell you it is not," he said.
He said councillors, when they went out to visit the property, were standing on dirt.
There were sheep carcasses and hungry sheep, he said.
He says the land is heavy on granite sand, and thus unlikely to present much of a fire risk, let alone farming benefit.
"You could nearly drop napalm out there and this place would not burn," Cr Pethybridge said.
He said there were houses nearby and a bed and breakfast.
"It is already populated with a lot of houses out there," Cr Pethybridge said.
He said the land was not good land and was perfect for splitting into three and supported the applicant's proposal.
6.56pm: No petitions and joint letters this month, the mayor says, so we're on to item number 3.1 - a proposal for a three-lot subdivision and creation of an easement at 56 Beilharz Road in Ravenswood.
Councillors have been recommended to refuse the request for a permit.
Cr Fyffe says there is a focus on agriculture in the report.
This seems appropriate, by his commentary.
Cr Fyffe said the council needed to have people using the agricultural component of the farming zone as a main source of activity, if it was going to have a farming zone.
"Given that farming is for farming - for agricultural production and the main income there - rural living is an entirely different concept," he goes on to say.
Cr Fyffe concludes by saying he is comfortable with the council officers' decision.
6.53pm: I wrote too soon: Cr Andrea Metcalf said she wanted to hear more on what the community thought of the draft budget before casting her vote next month.
Cr O'Rourke is now summing up.
"This is your opportunity... please make sure that you let us know your feedback," she said.
Unanimous decision to put the draft budget out now for public consultation.
6.50pm: Cr Emond has dubbed the proposed draft "a budget to recover and to thrive".
"It will be a nimble budget, more nimble than we might have seen in the past," he said.
He described that nimbleness as "vital".
"We do have as a community up until the 17th of June," he said of the closing date for submissions to the proposed draft, should it be passed.
Which, given we've already had this many councillors speak in support and none against, sounds like it's highly likely.
6.44pm: Cr Fyffe says it's good to see his fellow councillors enthusiastic about the budget, and "this is a great budget".
"We are very conscious of our commitments to the coronavirus things, we are also very conscious of the fact the state and federal governments are likely to offer packages of subsidies... grants... which we can utilise," Cr Fyffe said.
He believed the opportunity to make the most of those opportunities was built into the proposed budget.
Cr Fyffe has pointed to items such as roads and footpaths as some of the items community wanted more of.
He also said there were items and initiatives in the budget for industrial land, to create more opportunities for the community.
Cr Fyffe acknowledged a rate rise would be hard for some ratepayers, but would give the council more opportunities to deliver services.
6.38pm: Cr Alden encouraged people to contact the council about the proposed budget if they had any suggestions.
Cr James Williams is now speaking in favour of the draft.
By not maintaining a 2 per cent rate rise, he said the financial effects for the council and residents would be more significant over time.
"The one change I've seen is I guess the private investments in this city," Cr Williams said.
He believed taking on major projects was creating a head of steam.
A business park was among the projects he said he was looking forward to in the future.
"I believe it sets us up well for the future," Cr Williams said of the proposed budget.
6.35pm: She said the work of the local government - a "very large business" - could not continue without a two per cent rate increase.
"Council is proud of this budget and how it will assist the community out from the cloud of COVID-19," Cr O'Rourke said.
Cr Jennifer Alden said a budget was a statement of priorities.
Some priorities had changed, she said, since the version being prepared ahead of what was supposed to be the April meeting.
She has mentioned tree planting and energy efficient lighting.
Waste education, food system strategy implementation were also among the priorities Cr Alden picked up.
She's also touching on plans for a shade sail for Hargreaves Mall, bus shelters, and the first phase of the Wolstencroft Reserve Master Plan.
6.30pm: "Council is proud of its budget, the final budget of its term," Bendigo mayor Margaret O'Rourke said.
Council had nearly completed the budget when COVID-19 struck, she said.
"It was critical that we wanted to re-frame this," Cr O'Rourke said, taking into consideration the global pandemic.
She said she had personally taken a number of phone calls, some of which were very emotional, about the effects of COVID-19.
"It's probably the hardest budget anyone has had to deal with," Cr O'Rourke said.
She described the proposed budget as optimistic, looking across the whole municipality and with the intent to stimulate the economy.
"We look forward to again welcoming tourists to the region," Cr O'Rourke said, noting there were inclusions to that aim.
There were also inclusions to assist with business, and support for families struggling financially.
6.26pm: We've moved on to the city's proposed budget. We've already highlighted some of the key aspects of the draft, which we've published here.
We expect there will be plenty to follow up on. If you think there's an angle we've missed, once you get a chance to go through it, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or a buzz on 5434 4470.
6.23pm: He's talking about the role of councillors and councils, inspired by the items on the agenda.
6.20pm: Cr Emond is now providing a councillor report, after a question session that I only partially heard. However, the latter half concerned questions related to the GovHub, including consultation with residents.
We covered some of the issues raised in the public question time in our latest article on the GovHub, which is here.
Cr Emond is reflecting on the array of activities that occur in Bendigo, which he said he had learnt much more about since becoming a councillor.
6.15pm: Late entry to this meeting's blog - sorry, technical issues.
This is an important meeting, so here's hoping everything stays stable from here on.
The council is going through the public questions, and the GovHub has been the topic of the questions I've heard in full so far.
GovHub is one of a number of big items on the agenda for tonight, including the draft budget and proposed gender equity strategy.
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