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Mayor’s comment offends radio listeners ‘in the sticks’

City of Greater Bendigo mayor Barry Lyons' on-air comment implying outlying residents deserved second-class service has outraged rural residents.

ELAINE COONEY June 3, 2014 3:20am

Elmore residents have taken aim at City of Greater Bendigo mayor Barry Lyons, who said residents ‘who chose to live in the sticks’ should not have access to better services.

A Shelbourne resident questioned Cr Lyons on value for money after the city lifted rates six per cent, during an interview on ABC presenter Fiona Parker’s morning program.

Cr Lyons replied: ‘‘Ummm...I don’t have a response for you because you choose to live out in the sticks and I just can’t help that (chuckles).’’

His comments have further exacerbated concern in the Elmore community, many of whom felt upset about their share of the City of Greater Bendigo budget.

Cr Lyons continued by saying the City of Greater Bendigo looked after residents as best it could and spread resources throughout the city.

When Campaspe News asked the mayor to clarify his comments he said: ‘‘I live out in the sticks myself’’.

He said people who live in regional areas did not get as many services and facilities as the city ratepayers, but he did not feel they were too disadvantaged.

When asked if he had visited Elmore he said he spoke to a resident two weeks ago, but had no reason to speak to Elmore residents as a group.

‘‘If necessary I would,’’ he said.

Elmore farmer Darren Trewick was offended when he heard the mayor’s comments on the radio show.

‘‘I thought it was a low blow that the mayor of the City of Greater Bendigo thought so little of us,’’ he said.

Elmore Field Days president Frank Harney said the mayor’s response was inappropriate.

‘‘We don’t get anything,’’ he said.

He said Elmore and Goornong did not factor into the city’s budget for lighting at football and netball grounds.

Mr Harney said the City of Greater Bendigo relied too much on the Elmore Charity Ball and Elmore Field Days to support the community.

Elmore Events Centre’s public relations manager Sam Shotton said Elmore should not be penalised by the City of Greater Bendigo Council because it was proactive in raising its own funds through their two major events.

‘‘The Community Bank, Elmore Charity Ball and Elmore Field Days can’t support everything and we are at risk of wearing out our volunteers,’’ she said.

‘‘(Ratepayers) don’t pay rates to the Elmore Field Days do they?’’ she asked

‘‘Why should we be any different to Heathcote or Marong?’’

Elmore pool committee president Matt Henke said if it was not for the Elmore Field Days and Elmore Charity Ball, the Elmore swimming pool would no longer exist.

He said Elmore and other outlying towns were the home towns of a large percentage of Bendigo city’s workforce.

‘‘If you cut (the city) off all you have is concrete and infrastructure. That’s it,’’ he said.

He said Elmore and its surrounding areas were vital to the City of Greater Bendigo economy because they were the vegetable growers.

Elaine Cooney

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