Part III: The final boundaries - Geelong
- The EBC proposed substantial changes to electoral boundaries in Victoria’s second largest city. The boundary between Lara and Geelong districts was pushed south to Church Street, redistributing several suburbs to Lara. To compensate for Geelong’s losses and rein in South Barwon’s growth, Belmont was transferred from South Barwon to Geelong. In the east, the boundary between Geelong and Bellarine was adjusted to fit suburb boundaries.
- The EBC received 14 submissions objecting to the proposed boundaries. Objectors concentrated on the area north of Church Street, contending that residents of these suburbs (North Geelong, Hamlyn Heights and Bell Park) looked to Geelong West and the city centre for all their services, including shopping, medical services, recreation, libraries and their member of Parliament. Residents stated that they had no links to the north, and would need to travel some 8 kilometres to Corio to meet the member for Lara. Writers also opposed the transfer of Belmont to Geelong, arguing that the Barwon River is a clear natural boundary, that residents of Geelong generally think in terms of north and south of the river, and that residents of Belmont do not identify with the city centre. Residents of St Albans Park and Whittington (included in Bellarine district under the proposed boundaries) wrote that their suburbs are close to Geelong, are socially similar to Newcomb with significant public housing, and are quite different from the Bellarine Peninsula, which is more affluent and is based on tourism, beaches and wineries.
- The EBC concedes the validity of many of these community of interest arguments. However, the boundaries have to be considered in the context of the numbers requirements of the Act and of wider changes. The key change affecting Geelong was that to Lara district. Currently Lara is a mixed electorate, spanning the westernmost edge of the metropolitan area and the northern suburbs of Geelong. The proposed boundaries changed Lara to a purely Geelong-based electorate, greatly improving it from a community of interest perspective. Lara’s eastern boundary was moved west to the Little River, but this produced a need to gain some 10,000 electors to bring Lara’s enrolment up to the average – and the logical place to gain these electors was from Geelong district. Mr James Cuthill suggested finding electors in the direction of Bannockburn, which is a semi-rural commuter area like parts of Lara district – but there is not ready access from Lara to Bannockburn, and in any case the numbers are insufficient. The EBC investigated the possibility of a compromise boundary, but there was no boundary that would both meet perceived communities of interest and satisfy the numbers requirements. It should be noted that the northern boundary of Geelong district has changed over time, and that North Geelong, Hamlyn Heights and Bell Park have been included in the former Geelong North district. The EBC considers that the Church Street boundary is the best one available, since it is clear and corresponds with suburb boundaries.
- Elector numbers are also an obstacle to agreeing to objectors’ wishes concerning Belmont. The loss of 10,000 electors to Lara needs to be made up somewhere, and Belmont is the logical place to do so. However, the EBC has been able to transfer Highton from Geelong to South Barwon, making the Barwon River the boundary in this area. Highton is further from the city centre than Belmont is, and so has less reason to be in a district based on the city centre.
- In the east, the EBC has included Whittington and St Albans Park in Geelong, creating a clearer distinction between Geelong and Bellarine districts. Consequently, extra electors have to be found for Bellarine. The EBC has decided to include Barwon Heads in Bellarine. As a twin town to Ocean Grove, Barwon Heads has always had reasonable grounds to be included in the same electorate, and its inclusion fits community of interest as well as enabling Bellarine district to have an appropriate number of electors.