By Justin Flynn
Labor Member for Bellarine Lisa Neville has questioned her Liberal rival’s motive for moving to Ocean Grove recently.
The Liberal candidate for Bellarine at the upcoming state election, Brian McKiterick, moved to Ocean Grove from Torquay a few months ago since being named as the party’s representative to contest the election.
But Ms Neville was having none of it when the Voice asked her about Mr McKiterick’s move.
“He’s the Surf Coast Shire councillor, he’s come down here just like Ron Nelson did last time, rented a house and left as soon as he lost,” she said.
“I think it’s taking the p… out of the community to be honest.”
Brian McKiterick has served as a police officer throughout Victoria for the past 40 years and has been a Surf Coast Shire Councillor for 10 years, including two terms as mayor.
“What I know is that for over 20 years I have lived and worked with this community across the Bellarine and I think my understanding of the Bellarine could not be questioned,” Ms Neville said.
“I love this place and I support it – I live in Geelong West and I have lived there for 24 years in the same house with my son and I’m five minutes from my electorate.
“I’m not going to pretend like he is to rent a house when he’s a Surf Coast Shire councillor who’s had nothing to do with the Bellarine for any of his working life. That’s fine, he lived in Torquay and that’s fantastic, but to now pretend he’s an Ocean Grove resident – I’m sure if he loses he won’t be here.”
Ms Neville said Labor would continue to announce election commitments in the lead up to the 24 November state election.
She said maintaining the boundaries of towns on the Bellarine was a priority.
“Yes Ocean Grove’s a growth corridor, but all the other townships around it, we don’t want to see join up to Ocean Grove either,” she said.
“That’s a key priority in terms of really trying to protect the quality of life and the amenity here.
“Barwon Heads is not a growth corridor and I think they absolutely deserve a guarantee that the urban boundaries not be changed.
“Both of them (Ocean Grove and Barwon Heads) are fantastic seaside communities – one’s bigger than the other, but they still have a quality about them that they want to protect in the future.
“That’s an issue for all of the Bellarine. The message is clear, people don’t want to see townships join up, they don’t want to lose their green spaces, they don’t want to have massive high-rise buildings. I’ll be looking at ways to make sure we can protect those communities.”
Ms Neville responded to Mr McKiterick’s vision to have a permanent police station built in Leopold.
“It’s clear in the police act. Section 10 says very clearly that no one can tell police where to put their resources or where to build a station,” she said.
“Last time when they came into government in 2014, they committed to build Waurn Ponds and make it 24 hours and Ken Lay, who was the chief commissioner at the time, said ‘no way, it’s not going to be 24 hours’.
“You have to be realistic with communities in what you can deliver. He realises that, he’s a police officer. I think what we want is members of parliament who actually respect and take advice from the chief commissioner on these matters and where and how to deploy these resources.
“If you’re going to do it, show us the money and show where the extra police you’d need as well.”
Ms Neville, who is the minister for police and water, said the Bellarine is a safe place to live and work.
“Despite what you’d read in Melbourne papers, the Bellarine would be one of the safest places in the world to live and we want to keep it that way,” she said.
“What we know is working with communities, that partnership and being locally based police who patrol and have the connections is what can keep people safe and Ocean Grove (police station) delivers that in spades.”