City calls on State Government to fund key projects

The City of Greater Bendigo has named the Bendigo Art Gallery redevelopment as its number one project in need of funding heading into next Tuesday's State Budget.

The $28M project requires up to $21M from other levels of government and $1.5M in philanthropic donations, having already secured $3M from the City and $2.5M from the Gallery board.

A redevelopment of the entire site would deliver a world-class learning centre for students, second-level blockbuster exhibition space, Traditional Owner Place of Keeping for the Dja Dja Wurrung, expanded access to free and collection-based exhibitions, redeveloped restaurant with a City of Gastronomy offering, expanded commercial opportunities including pop-up blockbuster exhibition shop, and accessible amenities and expanded public spaces.

Mayor Cr Andrea Metcalf said the City had advocated strongly for the project to relevant government ministers, local members and senior government staff.

"Bendigo Art Gallery is renowned for its blockbuster exhibitions and is a major tourism and economic driver in our region. The planned expansion will build on the Gallery's incredible success, which has again been confirmed by the current Elvis: Direct from Graceland exhibition. It is the right time to truly transform the building and cement the Gallery as a leading arts institution in regional Australia," Cr Metcalf said.

The City is also urging the State Government to fund the Healthy Heart of Victoria initiative for a further three years and invest $5.25M in the health and wellbeing of the Loddon Campaspe region.

"The initiative delivers activation projects across six municipalities with the aim of creating healthy environments and providing free opportunities to help residents be more active, eat well and stay connected," Cr Metcalf said.

"Key achievements to date include the delivery of free outdoor exercise equipment and fitness programs, new walking paths and lighting, healthy cooking classes, school kitchen garden programs and upgrades to local recreation facilities.

"This initiative has plenty of runs on the board that have delivered meaningful, practical outcomes and there's more important work to do, which cannot continue without this funding."

Funds would continue to support the health broker network across the six local government areas to ensure a health focus in all aspects of each Council's work, deliver more place-based activation projects focused on healthy eating and physical activity, and another Active Living Census (last done in 2019).

Together with the arts and health, road projects are also a priority including an investment in planning for an upgrade of the Howard Street, Epsom intersection.

Significant planning is required to redevelop the intersection, which services a main thoroughfare, busy shopping centre and school zone. The intersection is the responsibility of the State Government through its Department of Transport and Howard Street is a local road and the responsibility of the City. Howard Street is also a gazetted freight route of State significance.

Any future plans would need to take into consideration the recent planning permit amendment process for the Epsom Village Shopping Centre, which secured developer funds to contribute to intersection improvements by providing a dedicated left-hand turning lane from Midland Highway into Howard Street, and a dedicated left-hand turning lane from Howard Street onto the highway.

The City would also welcome funds to plan for the Marong Freight Link, which would support diverting heavy vehicle traffic away from the Marong township and improve amenity.

The link would be expected to start 4km south of Marong, likely at the Calder Alternate Highway and Cemetery Road, and travel around the western side of the Marong township to connect up to the Calder Highway north of Yorkshire Road.

"We have been in regular discussion with the State Government regarding our wish list of projects. Support for these projects is something Council is keen to see when the Budget is handed down and we are ready to get straight to work to deliver the benefits for our community and the wider region," Cr Metcalf said.

Other projects that remain unfunded include the Golden Dragon Museum redevelopment to become the National Chinese Museum of Australia, North Bendigo Recreation Reserve facilities upgrade, which would deliver community and sports pavilions, including new change rooms and social area, and upgrading the Calder Highway, Maiden Gully Road and Caroline Way intersection.

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