Rural councils happy about decision to dump Games

The Victorian government’s decision to scrap the 2026 Commonwealth Games has provided significant opportunities for rural councils, a senate inquiry has heard.

Cr Mary-Ann Brown

The inquiry by the federal parliament’s Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee is one of three probes into events around the state government’s surprise announcement in July that it was tearing up its contract with Games Organisers.

The Games, slated to be held from March 17-29 in 2026 across Geelong, Bendigo, Ballarat, Gippsland and Shepparton, had left rural councils out of the equation in preference for larger regional centres, the committee heard.

Giving evidence to the committee on Tuesday, Chair of Rural Councils Victoria (RCV), Councillor Mary-Ann Brown said the organisation’s 34 member councils had never stood to get anything out of a Commonwealth Games, and the decision not to go ahead would actually bring more benefits.

$2 billion redirected

That included a share of a $2 billion pot of cash offered to regional areas by the government to make up  for lost legacy infrastructure and tourism benefits.

“We don’t represent any councils that would have hosted events,” Cr Brown said.

“The cancellation of the Commonwealth Games has actually presented our communities with significant opportunities that we would not otherwise have had because of the redirection of some of that funding.

“There probably wasn’t going to be any legacy infrastructure in our communities so … we believe the redirection of funding gives us a better opportunity to actually improve some of the sporting infrastructure in our communities.”

The cancellation of the Commonwealth Games has actually presented our communities with significant opportunities that we would not otherwise have had.

RCV Chair Mary-Ann Brown

As well as better sporting infrastructure, rural councils also hoped some of the redirected money would be provided for housing, public transport and tourism infrastructure.

She said RCV has already had discussions with the government and was hopeful of seeing the first of the  money start to flow in six to 12 months, including Tiny Towns funding for towns of under 5,000 people, which has already been announced.

“We have had meetings with state government ministers who have certainly been very receptive to our requests and the issues we’ve raised, and we’ll continue to press those until such time as the programs are rolled out,” she said.

”I think there’s an understanding of what the need is and we’ll continue to press it. We’re confident that our concerns will be taken into account when this funding is distributed”.

The failed Commonwealth Games plan gave the government an opportunity to do things better next time, Cr Brown said.

“Any of these sorts of events, if they’re going to benefit our communities, there needs to be legacy investments in things like housing and public transport and sporting facilities,” she said.

“I don’t think it matters whether it’s the Commonwealth games, the Olympic Games or something else, we need to see some long term benefits, and they should not just be restricted to the largest population centres.”

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