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Bellarine Times – Cr Jim Mason – 18 January 2021

If we ever need a reminder that the Bellarine Peninsula is a very special place, the thousands of visitors who arrive here every summer provide it.

Of all the destinations available (which, admittedly, are severely reduced this year), our visitors choose to spend their precious holiday time enjoying everything our beautiful part of the world has to offer.

And we, the lucky ones, get to live here year round!

Tourism is the lifeblood for so many Bellarine businesses and, this year more than ever, we appreciate everyone who has arrived for a day, a week or more over summer.

It also plays an important role in helping our local community rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic – so, if visiting, thank you very much and we hope you enjoy it enough to return.

As Chair of the Council’s Rural and Coastal portfolio, it’s a great passion of mine that we must protect what it is that both residents and visitors love about the Bellarine.

Specifically, our pristine coastline, the distinct coastal feel of our towns, and the green rural land between them.

The well known expression, ‘don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg’ is relevant to the Bellarine with regards to development.

We must ensure the rural sector thrives through providing appropriate services and advice to small landholders.

Further, the Council (through its Settlement Strategy) has determined that the share of residential growth on the peninsula will decline.

Instead, the majority of new housing in Greater Geelong over the next 20 years will be directed to Armstrong Creek and the new growth areas to the north and west of Geelong.

The Victorian Government’s Distinctive Areas and Landscapes process for the Bellarine will be happening this year. It will be a crucial step in providing permanent protection of the green breaks between our towns.

I’ll be following progress very keenly and hope to see a strong final outcome that ensures healthy rural and coastal environments on the Bellarine well into the future.

Have your say on Council budget and projects

Councillors are elected to represent our local communities and we take that responsibility very seriously.

With that in mind, putting together the annual Council Budget is one of the most vital processes we undertake.

It’s a chance for us to direct funding towards facilities and projects that will help make our region the best possible place to live, and it’s important it reflects the community’s needs and best interests for the future.

This year we’ve launched a formal process to gather ideas direct from you about what you’d like to see funded in the 2021-22 Council Budget.

It might be an upgrade to a particular sporting or community facility, an idea to help accelerate our region’s COVID-19 recovery, or any number of other possibilities.

Given we are facing a large deficit in the current financial year as a result of the pandemic, we’re also seeking the community’s input as to where we can save some money next year.

You can share your thoughts until 1 February via yoursay.geelongaustralia.com.au.

Councillors will then consider all ideas in developing a draft budget, which will be released for feedback in late April.

The ‘Your Say’ webpage also features a number of current opportunities to share your feedback on Bellarine-based projects.

As part of an evaluation of the expanded outdoor dining trial along The Terrace in Ocean Grove, we’re keen to hear if your experience of the new areas has been positive or negative.

And importantly, do you think the new set-up should be removed once the scheduled trial finishes on 8 March, or should it remain in place for longer?

We’re also seeking feedback on a concept plan for a skate park upgrade in St Leonards, and on dog controls (on- and off-leash areas) in the Barwon Heads Village Park reserve.

This is a forerunner to broader work underway to update the entire Master Plan for the reserve, which will set a vision for the next 10 years.

You can visit yoursay.geelongaustralia.com.au to provide feedback on all of these projects.

Shared Trails

As Chair of the Shared Trails portfolio, I will be advocating strongly during this Council term for progress on the priority connections detailed in our 10-year Shared Trails Master Plan – and especially for those on the Bellarine.

In Barwon Heads, work is underway on a new off-road shared trail connecting the 13th Beach Surf Live Saving Club to Stevens Parade.

This trail is a joint project between the Council and the Barwon Coast Committee of Management.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the rest of your summer on our beautiful Bellarine.

Various photos of Jim Mason
I acknowledge that the Land I work on, live on and play on is the Traditional Lands of the Wadawurrung People. I pay my respects and homage to Wadawurrung Elders, both past and present, to all Wadawurrung people and to all Australia's First Nation's people.