We need to be united to get funding, say city leaders

BALLARAT'S business and community leaders say the region needs to be less divided and have a clearer vision of what it wants to get a better deal from government.

The reaction comes as The Courier reveals that Ballarat has been short-changed on government funding over the past four years compared to Bendigo and Geelong. 

Businessman Steve Anderson, owner of Regent Cinemas, said everyone in Ballarat needed to come together and have a discussion about the priorities for the future.

He said the city also needed to lobby as hard as it could to win support from government.

"History shows that that hasn't happened over the past 10 years," he said.

Mr Anderson cited the Geelong waterfront as an example where a city had banded together to try and win funding from government.

"We're a very divisive and divided town, it's the reality of it. If that can change then things may improve on the terms of funding," he said.

We're a very divisive and divided town, it's the reality of it. If that can change then things may improve - Steve Anderson

"Put simply, it's not about blaming people. It's not about blaming council. It's the whole community, the whole town."

The delayed effects of governments spending less in Ballarat than other areas was also discussed. 

Craig's Hotel owner John Finning said if government funding was down in Ballarat then we might only be seeing the effect of a lack of infrastructure now.

He said Bendigo, which was similar in many ways to Ballarat, had enjoyed a much better time in the spotlight. 

"Governments of any persuasion get let off the hook when there are a number of different messages being sent to them," he said.

Mr Finning said when it comes to funding, the squeaky wheel often gets the oil.

"I'm not sure if Ballarat hasn't been squeaky, but if you're starting to compare the different areas then some squeaks are louder than others," he said.

BJT Legal director Stacey Grose, also chair of United Way and the Ballarat Foundation, said Ballarat had been focused on tourism and perhaps needed to shift its gaze to encouraging more people to live and work in the area.

"Tourism is great and is a very important part of Ballarat, but there is a whole other world to living in Ballarat," she said.

How the city comes up with its wishlist for funding was also something that needed to be refined, according to some leaders.

Pinarc Disability Support chief executive officer Marianne Hubbard said there was often insufficient consultation of the whole community on what is needed.

"Bringing together representation from all sectors of the community, that's probably where we fall down," she said.

Telstra area general manager Bill Mundy said groups like Committee for Ballarat were working with council to achieve a better deal for the region.

"With the lag it takes to deliver major infrastructure projects, our lack of a cohesive approach has possibly affected us," he said.

"We are now in a much better position and the recent announcements that have been made by both political parties certainly demonstrate that."

North Ballarat Roosters coach Gerard FitzGerald said the city needed to be united behind what council was doing with its Ballarat Regional Capital Plan.

"I think now politicians clearly know what the town wants. I think it's time that the people support our leaders," he said.

"This blueprint now clearly articulates what our city wants, and I admire that. Together we will achieve far more than we will in isolation."