New council leaders eye state election

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Bendigo council’s new leadership team have their eyes firmly fixed on the state election next year, as they look to secure funding for long-term projects vital to the city’s development.

Plans to create a government hub to house state departments and new law courts were two priorities, according to mayor Margaret O’Rourke, who was re-elected for back-to-back terms on Monday.

“We keep talking about all these projects we need to be done, but we need them to be funded,” Cr O’Rourke said.

Related: Mayor, deputy keen to run again

“We’ll be working very hard to see some of those projects in the state budget next year and having bipartisan support on those projects.”

Deputy mayor Jennifer Alden, who ran as a Greens candidate in the 2014 state government election and was endorsed by the political party ahead of the Bendigo council election in 2016, said impartiality was a “very useful thing” but she would be a “safe pair of hands”.

When asked whether her political affiliations would help Bendigo’s cause in the lead up to the state election, Cr Alden said: “We all bring connections and understandings of where opportunities present themselves for our city and they will present themselves very rapidly in the coming year.”

Cr O’Rourke said her desire to run again for mayor was driven by unfinished projects, namely securing a commercial partner for the newly-developed Bendigo airport, and support from within the community, which she described as “flattering”.

“There is really strong interest (in the airport), they (commercial carriers) are very interested in a passenger service,” she said.

The pair become the first female leadership team at Bendigo council.

Related:Race to become City of Greater Bendigo’s next mayor takes shape

Cr O’Rourke said it was “fantastic” that two women were leading council, but stressed the council had a majority of female representatives and the role of deputy mayor was relatively new one.

The city's former leadership team. Mayor Margaret O’Rourke and former deputy mayor Rod Fyffe pictured in 2016.

The city’s former leadership team. Mayor Margaret O’Rourke and former deputy mayor Rod Fyffe pictured in 2016.

The role of deputy mayor was introduced in 2016. 

Cr Alden replaced former deputy and four-time mayor Rod Fyffe after councillors voted for their new leaders at a private meeting on Monday.

Mayor O’Rourke said a number of councillors put their hands up for both the mayor and deputy positions.

The deputy mayor was “more of a supportive” role for the mayor and other councillors, Cr O’Rourke said

“The amount of activities a mayor has to do is increasing. People want to see their councillors and we want to make ourselves accessible, but business and government also want to meet with us,” she said.

Cr Alden said she was really looking forward to putting “the flesh on the bones” of council’s community plan.

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