Sarah Hathway, socialist candidate for Windermere Ward in the Greater Geelong City Council, is using her campaign to draw attention to the forgotten suburbs in the Northern region of Geelong.
Hathway told Green Left that Norlane and Corio are “underserviced” and “often ignored”.
Councillors and local politicians claim they do a lot, but little seems to change, she said.
Volunteers letterboxing the ward have reported just how forgotten these areas are: they lack footpaths, nature strips and tree coverage.
“A number of public spaces are just empty flat land with no trees or vegetation, paths or play equipment”, Hathway said. “This seems to be worse in new developments going up on the edge of Corio.”
She said the parks with these basic amenities are often not maintained. “The local park where I take my daughter was flooded the other week — paths and half the basketball court were under water because there is no proper drainage. I’m not even sure if council employs maintenance workers to service public spaces in the north.
“It just seems like no one really cares.”
The Northern ward, covering 709 square kilometres, is the largest of the four wards in the Greater Geelong City Council: it stretches from North Geelong to the regional and rural areas of Little River, Staughton Vale and Anakie.
But, despite covering such a large area, Windermere Ward only has two councillors, compared to the other three wards in the Greater Geelong City Council, which have three councillors each.
One potential positive development is the Northern ARC project, which has been on the books for at least eight years. The Greater Geelong Council recently completed its building plan and rebadged the project to become the Northern Aquatic and Community Hub. It hopes it will attract state and federal funding as part of the region’s post-COVID-19 recovery project.
The local council has committed just over $20 million to the project. But without another $41 million, the project will not be able to go ahead.
Plans for the site include a 25-metre swimming pool, a hydrotherapy pool, water play and learn-to-swim space, gym, 400-person multipurpose community hall, health consulting suites and public meeting rooms.
The Greater Geelong City Council ran a public petition and billboards asking for state funding for the Northern ARC in the lead-up to the last state election. The Daniel Andrews government gave no commitment and the campaign fizzled out until recently, when the council saw an opportunity to posit the hub as a post-COVID-19 infrastructure recovery project.
“I really hope this project gets the funding it needs to go ahead,” Hathway said. “But given there’s been no buy-in from governments, we need local representatives to build a dynamic community campaign to get that funding.
“We need councillors who seek to empower locals to fight for the amenities they want, as we’ve seen Socialist Alliance councillors in Moreland in Victoria and Fremantle in Western Australia do,” Hathway concluded.
[Sarah Hathway is a member of Socialist Alliance. Click here to help out or get in touch.]