BALLARAT is well positioned to be an epi-centre of next year's state election based upon the political implications, however, just how the city might benefit from the situation is far from clear.
The final redivision of Victoria's lower house seats has created the new divisions of Wendouree and Buninyong to service the majority of residents who either live or work in Ballarat.
While the change in division names was not without controversy, the changes in boundaries make the chances of the Liberal Party in winning the two seats more likely.In Wendouree, which takes in the majority of the former Ballarat West seat, current Labor member Sharon Knight will effectively start behind at the 2014 poll.
The indicative margin created by the changes shows the seat notionally in Liberal hands due to the loss of a large portion of voters in Sebastopol who have traditionally supported Labor candidates.In Buninyong, largely based on the current seat of Ballarat East held by Labor's Geoff Howard, the change created by the redivision is less influential. However, suggestions Mr Howard could retire - he has held the seat since the remarkable 1999 election - or face a fierce preselection battle will delight the Liberals.The results won't, however, be taken for granted as the state Coalition government is hanging by a thread.However, first term governments don't fall easily in Victoria and the two marginal seats in the Ballarat region will be at or very near the top of its agenda come election time.
Candidates for the Liberal Party are yet to be confirmed, however from the 2010 poll Craig Coltman and Ben Taylor were considered as strong performers - if ultimately unsuccessful - and have continued to be active locally since their defeat.The party itself has mobilised in Ballarat since 2010, it's influence at local government level - the upcoming mayoral vote is being plagued by political trickery - and through the federal campaign provides the proof.It does, however, require results.So, Ballarat is well positioned to benefit from a fierce political battle. But want do we want?Our public hospital is expanding as a regional centre of excellence, our schools are innovative and diverse and our transport systems adequate, despite some ingrained inadequacies.
Perceptions of community safety have depending on how, or who, assesses it, has levelled out or improved.
Many of the major issues of passionate debate in our city are the responsibility of local government.Both major parties will focus on jobs growth. Both will have a plan but based on current offerings, we can't be convinced that results will be delivered.Absolutely, jobs are extremely important.
But an election campaign full of rhetoric about creation without hard and honest, deliverable projects will be held in contempt.The Ballarat West Growth Zone, seen as so key to the city's economic and community-building future is currently but a vast expanse of land on planning documents.Without a dramatic and expansive further investment in real development in this precinct, our city stands with many eggs in a basket made of concrete which is yet to fully set.Ballarat also needs a project which sets a new bar to energise the community.
Support for a major development of the Eureka stadium precinct for use for sports, concerts, shows, exhibitions and most importantly, community groups is broad but its progress has been undermined by both political forces and self interest.As we've remarked in the past, the plan for the precinct must be finalised, with firm costings and an united front - and it must happen soon.What else does Ballarat want, or better still, what do we need?
One of the laments during the federal election campaign was that the seat of Ballarat was overlooked for new projects and commitments. We've 12 months to make sure our priorities are clear for the state government.
Andrew Eales is the editor of The Courier