AN INQUIRY has urged the Victorian government to deal with contaminated land amid frustrations about unused Bendigo blocks.
It comes after the City of Greater Bendigo told the parliamentary inquiry into environmental infrastructure that the state government appeared reluctant to help rehabilitate a slew of vacant sites around Bendigo.
The council is grappling with a rapidly growing population that needs housing, work spaces and outdoor recreation space.
Bendigo boasts "a large area" of open space around and within the city but much of it has been contaminated by past mining practices, council's then-manager of parks and open space Paul Gangell told a 2021 hearing.
"[It] makes public access and development extremely challenging and costly," he said.
"It can create quite a bit of frustration for the community in seeing open tracts of land not being developed to the community's expectations, and I guess it provides a lag in trying to address the shortfalls for developing open space where the community needs it in the current generation."
The state government is supportive of the council's efforts to deal with contaminated sites but does not provide funding to help communities investigate how land can be rehabilitated and opened up for the public, Mr Gangell said.
"[It] leads us to be quite reluctant in taking over any crown land reserve at the moment unless it provides a real, clear benefit to the community," he told the inquiry.
Adding to the council's difficulties is that land might be owned or managed by a variety of private individuals or government authorities.
The council told the inquiry a a slew of changes would help including funding for government agencies and local governments to investigate and remediate contaminated land, more clarity on site management and better ways of working together.
It also suggested a public register set up to make it easier for everyone to identify what works needed to be prioritised.
The inquiry agreed, saying there was "significant value in unlocking parcels of contaminated land and converting them into open space."
It recommended the government commission a statewide assessment to cost potential rehabilitation works and, if needed, find alternative ways to pay for them.
It said the Environmental Protection Authority would be well placed to lead the assessment given it was recently given expanded powers.
The government is currently considering the inquiry's report and has been contacted for comment.
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can access our trusted content:
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.