Supporting Business in Bendigo

What support could Bendigo Council give to the business sector during the Covid-19 crisis?

Across the country, businesses are struggling, especially small and medium-sized businesses. One way of measuring this is by looking at Jobkeeper data (latest data for postcodes). The latest figures show that for City of Greater Bendigo postcodes, there are at least 2000 businesses that have claimed Jobkeeper payments.

Of course, the main source of economic stimulus needs to be from state and federal governments, but local councils can play their part. The council has put out some measures to support local businesses, including business support webinars, and mentoring, but I would advocate for these additional support measures.

I think there are several ways in which the council could improve its supporting for businesses, especially at this time. Thanks are due to the business owners who spoke to me about their businesses, especially Michele Andrea from Eaglehawk eatery Let’s Get Saucy.

  1. Refund small fees such as outdoor dining and A-Frames for the 2019-2020 financial year. The council is waiving these fees for 2020-2021 but a refund would be much more useful for fees already paid.
  2. A partial waiver on 2020-2021 rates for businesses who have accessed Jobkeeper. The council is offering rates deferrals and payment plans, but a partial waiver would give much needed cashflow
  3. Better communication of business support. Council’s website is impersonal and hard to navigate. Its business support page is filled with lists of information-related websites, and support measures from council are nowhere to be found. A new, stand alone Covid-19 website needs to be developed that is intuitive to use.
  4. The council often puts out tenders for businesses, and has a procurement policy to guide how it selects winning businesses who apply for these tenders. Currently, local businesses receive a 15% ‘weighting’ when the council is selecting tender winners. This percentage needs to be urgently increased.

Fair Council Spending Across Greater Bendigo

Does Bendigo council spend fairly across our whole municipality?

From the draft 2020/2021 council budget, it is clear that most spending is concentrated in the centre of the city. Areas like Long Gully and Golden Square are almost completely neglected, and the northern growth corridor through to Huntly needs more community infrastructure. Small towns like Woodvale have been advocating for simple items for over a decade.

Have a look at this online map that Nigel Preston put together, using data from the draft budget for 2020/2021. You can see for yourself how concentrated spending is in the CBD.

I recognise that spending on council assets such as the Bendigo Art Gallery and the Hargreaves Mall is necessary to stimulate business and attract tourists. But let’s remember, most Bendigonians live in the suburbs, not in the CBD. These neighbourhoods need extra spending to make them livable, healthy, and attractive. There needs to be a shift in the balance of spending to reflect this fact.

Bendigo needs to commit to the 10-minute neighbourhood idea, but we cannot do that without seriously investing in 2 types of neighbourhoods:

  1. Growth corridors such as the Epsom/White Hills/Huntly area, which needs a community hub.
  2. Historically neglected areas like Long Gully, which needs a community plan to guide its future development.

Our neighbourhoods are where people actually live. There is a pressing need to invest in social infrastructure so that these places remain healthy and attractive places to live.

Dave’s Campaign Update – July

After a whirlwind of preparation for my campaign launch, life seems to have quietened down. But the campaign machine has been motoring along quietly. Here are a few things I have been up to.

  • Held two street stalls: one at Bendigo Showgrounds for a marathon 5 hours of conversation, and then a shorter one outside Eaglehawk Bakery, combined with introducing myself to most of the businesses in the Eaglehawk shopping strip. I loved all these conversations, and am thankful to those who came to chat and saved me from simply standing alone with a silly grin!
  • Collected 67 responses to my Whipstick Ward community survey! What a great response!
  • Released two more media releases, focussing on safe road crossings and fair council spending across the whole of our great city, not just the CBD. If we want to be a vibrant and healthy place for people to come and live, then our neighbourhoods need the social infrastructure that makes communities hum.
  • I had several media interviews, some of which have made their way into the public, and some of which have sunk like a stone! I’m gradually learning the need to be short and sharp and confident. These interviews are a privilege to have, and an opportunity to advocate for the Whipstick Ward.
  • I’ve received my first lot of PR propaganda, including fliers and an A-frame. Thanks to local businesses Preloaded Design and Signs by Choice for their prompt and excellent service!
  • Campaigns need support, and I am grateful to the volunteers who have pledged their support with tasks like letterbox drops etc (sign up if you’re keen), and to those generous souls who have dipped into their pockets to help me buy fliers, posters etc (donate if you can).
  • Met with several key community leaders across the Ward. These are people with links into organisations and clubs in the area, and have a keen insight into the issues that their community faces.

Improving our path network in Bendigo

Bendigo’s off-road cycling and walking network is very good, but much more could be done to make it safer and easier to use.

During the Covid-19 lockdown in Bendigo, many of us had reason to get out and walk, jog, or cycle. With two young kids at home, we took every opportunity we could to ride from home (in Long Gully) out to Lake Weeroona or the Bendigo Botanic Gardens. We even had a crack at riding all the way to Crusoe Reservoir, and managed to get to Spring Gully as well. Apart from many flat tyres from the dreaded three-cornered jack, we had a ball.

However, there was 1 downside. There are several road crossings which are very dicey. For example, on the way from Long Gully to Lake Weeroona, we must cross Creeth Street, Eaglehawk Road, Prouses Road and Finn Street. They are all busy roads, and two of them are combined with railway level crossings which obscure your view of traffic.

With a bike chariot in tow, as well as an 8-year old, I found myself quite anxious crossing these roads. I am sure that such dangerous road crossings are present in other areas of Bendigo.

The Greater Bendigo Council wants to get people active by using our network of paths, but these road crossings are a serious barrier to that. In the picture above, Deb Wylie and I are standing at the Creeth St crossing in Long Gully. This is what Deb had to say about this crossing:

“There are so many cars and trucks that use this road. I sometimes have to wait more than 10 minutes to cross the road. It’s great that lots of people use this path. But at the moment you take your life in your hands.”

Deb wylie, resident and community volunteer

You can also have a look at a video of the crossing here.

As well as installing safe road crossings at high traffic volume intersections, there are several other things we could do to make our cycling and walking paths easier and safer to use in the Whipstick Ward:

  • Solar lighting for safer evening use
  • Bench seating at regular intervals
  • Refurbish damaged sections of path
  • Extend the path from Epsom out to Huntly