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Monday, October 12, 2015

Council budget - a mixed bag

For people in Drysdale & Clifton Springs, the City of Greater Geelong's proposed 2011-12 budget represents a mixed bag.

The budget includes several good news items. It allocates funds to construct the first phase of the Lake Lorne walking track, to develop a Masterplan for a Beacon Point Reserve and to design a Bellarine Lookout. Each of these three sites is in the Open Spaces Network that DCSCA launched last year to protect our towns' dwindling open spaces, so these budget commitments are very welcome.

In the three years since DCSCA first proposed that a walking track be constructed around the perimeter of the Lake Lorne reserve, the original idea has been developed into a major upgrade of the facilities. The development of the original idea has featured extensive and effective consultation with local groups, individuals and organisations and DCSCA looks forward to a similar approach being taken to the development of a Masterplan for a Beacon Point Reserve and to the design of a Bellarine Lookout.

Good news for young people and for the environment
DCSCA is also pleased to see the budget supporting youth activities across the Bellarine, with $15,000 for the Bellarine Youth Action Team and $25,000 for the youth-run annual 'Spudfest' music event. Further good news is the $20,000 allocated to environment projects supported by the Bellarine Catchment Network. The budget also commits funds to a new netball court and lighting at Drysdale Reserve and to the further development of Drysdale's Potato Shed, including a grant of $12,500 to the Potato Shed's annual Family Fun Day.

No news on local economic development
The negative side of the budget is its silence on local economic development. DCSCA was interested to see whether the budget would address the council's continuing failure to plan for the Bellarine's economic development alongside the expansion of its population. DCSCA would like to see a greater diversity of local jobs - especially for young people - so that the expanding population can choose to work on the Bellarine or commute elsewhere.

The budget commits $25,000 to supporting industrial investment and $35,000 to supporting manufacturing, but doesn't specify where it will be spent. Recent history suggests that it won't be spent on the Bellarine. Further, the budget commits $180,00 to the council's sustainability project, Future Proofing Geelong, which includes a plan for low carbon growth in the Geelong region. (Future Proofing Geelong is launched officially today, 12 May 2011.) However, it isn't clear what this will mean in practice. The council refuses to promote a low carbon economy even on the Bellarine, let alone throughout the region.

DCSCA has argued consistently that the Bellarine could become a demonstration site of a low carbon economy, featuring cutting edge technologies and creating new high tech, high wage jobs. This would give the region's rapidly-expanding population real choices over whether they would like to work locally or elsewhere. It would prevent our towns becoming just dormitories for Geelong and Melbourne which, in the absence of good public transport, would mean continuing increases in commuter traffic on already-inadequate roads. Finally, developing the Bellarine as a demonstration site of a low carbon economy would attract visitors keen to 'see tomorrow's economy today', boosting tourism and its associated employment.

A chance to seize the day?
Geelong will host the 2011 Sustainable Economic Growth for Regional Australia (SEGRA) conference later this year and the budget includes $35,000 to pay the cost of it. The council could use that conference to showcase Future Proofing Geelong and, in that context, to announce its plans for a low carbon demonstration project on the Bellarine. Local councillors Doull and Macdonald could seize the initiative and ensure that the council applies the same sort of innovative thinking to the economic development of the Bellarine that it so proudly proclaims is being applied to the development of Amstrong Creek. They would certainly have major local support if they did.

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