WELCOME to 2014.
There are so many events and possibilities to look forward to during this year in Ballarat that it is hard to know where to start.
As we enter a new year, it is pertinent to reflect on what has been achieved in 2013, but also to recognise that not everything went as planned in the previous 12 months.
This year, Victorians will vote in one of the most interesting state elections in recent memory. After more than a decade of Labor rule, the Coalition that took power at the 2010 poll has endured a tough, tricky first term.
In March, then premier Ted Baillieu was replaced by Denis Napthine, a move that has changed the course of the political debate but has done little to secure the government’s tenuous hold on power.
This year stands to be a test not only of Dr Napthine’s leadership but also of how the government and opposition regard regional and rural Victoria.
Ballarat has already set an ambitions list of requests demanding attending from our state political leaders.
The redistribution of state seats has seen Ballarat West and East abolished in favour of Wendouree and Buninyong, with both seats seen as pivotal to the election’s outcome.
Assessing the impact of decision-making at a local level is much less clear. Ballarat City Council will be under intense pressure to finally determine the future of long-term projects, which have been encumbered by controversy – not the least the future of the Civic Hall site and the future site of the saleyards.
Balancing a budget big on projects and big on the bottom lines of rate notices is even more fraught in the current economic climate.
Ballarat must also consider its broader community values in 2014.
For too long we have shied away from tackling important cultural shifts on issues such as multiculturalism, violence against women and policies to engage our young people.
The leadership required on these issues is immense and the outstanding question remains as to who is prepared to lead the charge.
We look forward to 2014 as a year when Ballarat sells itself as a host of events and a beacon for tourism, and as a home of even better education and health.
Working together to make 2014 the year that sets our bright and burgeoning future is central to the hope for a better Ballarat.