Hepburn Shire Council has expressed disappointment at the shock decision by the Victorian Government to cancel the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

“While we understand and appreciate the financial challenges faced by all levels of government, we are extremely disappointed that regional Victoria will no longer host the Games,” said Mayor, Cr Brian Hood.

“Economic pressures are being felt at all levels of government and across the community. We acknowledge the Victorian Government’s announcement of the cancellation also comes with a regional support package, which we anticipate will bring other desperately needed benefits for our Shire,” he said.

Council has moved quickly to ensure the best possible outcomes for the Shire. The Mayor and Shire CEO, Bradley Thomas met with the Victorian Minister for Regional Development, Harriet Shing, on Thursday. “We recognised that the $2.3 billion package which would have been directed to six local government areas involved in delivery of the Games was now open to the 39 regional councils. It was important that Hepburn Shire acted quickly to present our case,” said Cr Hood.

Hepburn Shire was to host the Commonwealth Games mountain biking events at the 60km Creswick Trails Network.

Completion of the Trails project is the largest single infrastructure item in the 2023/24 budget at a total cost of $9.4 million. Council approved borrowings of $4.9 million to complete the project by 2024 trusting that the state government would provide additional funding.

The announcement of the Games cancellation will not impact on the delivery of the Trails network as Council has committed to complete the project. And in their meeting with the Minister this week, the Mayor and CEO received assurances that the state government would support completion of the Creswick Trails from the $1 billion fund to be directed to regional sports infrastructure.

“Council remains fully committed to completing this project, which will deliver important economic benefits for Creswick and the wider region along with health and wellbeing outcomes,” said Cr Hood. “Council will continue to promote sport and active recreation throughout the Shire and work with local sporting groups to boost health, wellbeing and inclusion in our community.”

The economic benefits of the Trails network will be greatly reduced with the cancellation of the Games but Cr Hood remains confident that on balance, the economic benefits outweigh the costs of the project.

In announcing the cancellation of the Games, the Premier also committed $1 billion for a Regional Housing Fund to address the affordable housing crisis across the state although details about how the funding would be distributed have not been announced. The funds were to be distributed to Ballarat, Bendigo, Geelong and Morwell but will now be distributed more widely. This offers an opportunity for Hepburn Shire.

“Council is finalising our Affordable Housing Strategy and Action Plan and we welcomed the announcement of investment in housing for the Shire and across Victoria,” said Cr Hood. “The Minister was impressed by our Housing Strategy and the specific actions outlined in it. We are confident that funding will be provided in the Shire for affordable and social housing from the Regional Housing Fund.”

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