ELECTION candidates must promise more Bendigo infrastructure if the city is to respond to a COVID-induced population spike, advocates have warned.
Week one of the official federal campaign saw some promises but the state's cities are crying out for more, Regional Cities Victoria has warned.
Melbournians' rush to the regions as COVID-19 ends has raised pressures on cities like Bendigo, the group says.
Chair Kim O'Keeffe says the most recent federal budget lacked enough "targeted investment" for regional Victoria.
"[It] was highly disappointing," she said.
Cr O'Keeffe's group represents 10 cities including Greater Bendigo's. She had a message for candidates of all political stripes.
"Regional Cities Victoria looks forward to seeing new commitments in the coming weeks that will ensure we get a fair share of funding," she said.
Major parties have so far made some local electorate specific promises, including bipartisan support for the $4.5 million Bendigo Airport upgrades.
Incumbent ALP candidate Lisa Chesters has touted $460,000 for Huntly's Strauch Reserve and money for a community solar battery in Maldon.
She says voters can expect more Bendigo-specific promises before election day.
The Liberals have talked up their record on rail and roads and Bendigo candidate Darin Schade says he will have more to say soon.
He is advocating for Marong farmland to be transformed into a new industrial business park.
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The City of Greater Bendigo hopes for federal help to build the business park and head off looming industrial land shortages.
Multiple Bendigo candidates are talking up the business park and the 3000 jobs it could bring over coming decades, including One Nation's Ben Mihail.
"There's one very much like it down in Ballarat and what they are doing there is fantastic. It brings all these businesses to a central location," he said.
The United Australia Party's candidate Elijah Suares has made the business park central to a $30 million spend over three years for Bendigo.
He has so far highlighted the need for $12.5 million for a resource recovery centre to replace the rapidly ageing Eaglehawk Landfill, a revamped Bendigo Showgrounds and museum storage options, among other ideas.
"I'd be trying to get $30 million in investments here, minimum," Mr Suares said after meeting with Bendigo council last week about potential spends.
He said some electorates in the region had received double that in the recent past for projects, making a $30 million spend over the next three years a good starting point.
The ideas were not officially UAP policy, but Mr Suares' priorities could inform internal party discussion about funding in times to come, especially if the UAP was negotiating with a future government.
The UAP is among minor parties that have held balances of power in the senate in recent decades, and that could play an outsized role in policy formulation depending on their fortunes this election.
It and another minor party with influence in the senate, the Greens, are talking about social housing shortages in Greater Bendigo.
Multiple candidates including Mr Suares and Greens' candidate Cate Sinclair have made social housing spending central to their campaigns.
"We need to build more social and rental housing," Bendigo Greens candidate Cate Sinclair said during week one of the official campaign.
"We need housing that people can purchase and then work towards owning."
Liberal Democrats candidate Matthew Bansemer said his party's preference was for infrastructure to be funded by governments after thorough analyses, with more private funding options.
But the party acknowledged that voters needed to work within the funding system to get the projects they wanted, he said.
"What is a big issue for Bendigo, right now, is that it is a safe Labor seat, so I would say the big thing for people who want to attract funding is to make it as marginal as possible," Mr Bansemer said.
That would focus national attention on the seat, and give leverage to smaller parties in negotiations, he said.
Cr O'Keefe, the Regional Cities Victoria chair, said candidates thinking about infrastructure should give thought to the "the basics" their communities needed.
"In many areas, our communities and businesses are still waiting for ... safe roads and reliable internet connections, She said.
"That's why we need to see major investment into the Building Better Regions Fund and the Local Roads and Community Infrastructure Program, as well as increased investment in digital connectivity."
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