Anti-mosque protesters force Bendigo mayor from council meeting under police guard

Bendigo's mayor has been forced to flee a council meeting under police guard after it was stormed by rowdy anti-mosque protesters. The Council had earlier given approval for the Mosque to proceed. Protesters lodged an appeal against the mosque, which was rejected by the VCAT. They have lodged another appeal. The Mayor has also responded to dissemination of misinformation by the protesters.
 

Ugly scenes broke out during the meeting at Bendigo Town Hall on Wednesday night, when about 100 members of the gallery started shouting during a question and answer session.

Protesters chanted "get out council traitors" and hurled abuse at Mayor Peter Cox, telling him to resign over his support for the building of a mosque on the city's outskirts.

At one point, a male protester approached councillors and banged his fist on the table they were sitting at.

Police were called and escorted councillors and council staff from the chambers about 7.30pm.

Cr Cox said he was shocked by the dramatic events and was disappointed the council had been stopped from doing its job.

Approval and VCAT Appeal

The council approved the building of Bendigo's first mosque in 2014, but the project was the subject of a legal challenge by a group of residents in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The challenge was rejected last month, but opponents have lodged a second round of appeals.

Police deployed capsicum spray to control protesters at a rowdy anti-Islam protest in the central Victorian city last month.

About 200 people attended the protest, organised by the far-right group the United Patriots Front.

A Victoria Police spokeswoman said there were no assaults or reports of criminal activity at Wednesday night's meeting.

Mayor condemns misinformation campaign

Monday August 31, 2015

Greater Bendigo City Council Mayor, Cr Peter Cox, today released a fact sheet to bust the myths being circulated about the mosque proposed for East Bendigo.

Cr Cox said the Council is disappointed that some opponents to the mosque are using false and misleading claims to support their cause.

“Council supports people’s right to free speech, however there is a responsibility on the authors of such material to ensure the claims they make are truthful,” he said.

During the past week and over the weekend material said to be written by Rights for Bendigo Residents Inc. was widely circulated in Bendigo.

The photocopied sheets made claims about local opposition to the mosque, residential development around the mosque site, the size of the mosque development and Bendigo Airport being expanded to facilitate religious pilgrimages.

FACT V FICTION



Claim

Truth

At least 80 per cent of Bendigo residents reject the mosque development.

There has been no official/credible polling or surveys undertaken of Greater Bendigo residents on this topic. Thirteen objectors appealed at VCAT.

The City of Greater Bendigo is planning 22,000 residential and State Government housing commission homes in preparation for mass migration of around 80,000 people. The claim makes reference to Haven Home Safe.

Bendigo has welcomed migrants since the gold rush era.

Greater Bendigo’s population is forecast to grow from 110,000 to 145,000 by 2031. Some of these people will be migrants, some will come from other parts of Australia and some will be born here. All will be welcome.

There is no planning permit applications for a residential development of the scale mentioned here.

Haven Home, Safe (HHS) has advised it does not have the capacity or desire to build “thousands of homes for the purpose of mass migration”. Its focus is on looking after homeless and disadvantaged people.

HHS describes the claim as nothing more than a pathetic smear campaign.

“(HHS) strongly rejects any suggestion or innuendo that it is part of a campaign to enable mass migration and the building of thousands of homes …”

A residential (22,000 homes) and commercial development is currently underway behind the proposed mosque site.

There is no suitable or available land around the mosque to accommodate a housing development on the scale claimed.

The land around the mosque site is zoned either Industrial 1 or Low Density Residential and would require an amendment to the Greater Bendigo Planning Scheme, which would be costly, take several years and have no guarantee of meeting the requisites for residential development.

Higher density residential development is not permitted in a Low Density Residential Zone (LDRZ).

There are no plans in the new Residential Development Strategy to increase residential densities in the area zoned Low Density Residential near the mosque site.

Most importantly, the East Bendigo Structure Plan, adopted by Council and which forms part of the planning scheme, discourages any intensification of housing development on this LDRZ land because it forms part of the racehorse precinct near the Bendigo Racecourse.

The proposed mosque is to eventually become the biggest mosque in the southern hemisphere and has the capacity to accommodate at least 2,000.

The conditions on the planning permit limit the capacity to a maximum of 375 people. The development is modest in terms of other mosque buildings in Australia.

It is to be the first of many mosques across Bendigo.

The City of Greater Bendigo has not received any planning permit applications or enquiries for other mosques in Greater Bendigo.

 

Cr James Williams has been approaching farmers in the region to involve them in Halal certification.

Cr James Williams informed the Council meeting on Wednesday August 26, 2015 that he has not been approaching farmers about Halal certification.

Mayor Cr Peter Cox is involved in training programs for asylum seekers and refugees.

Mayor Cr Peter Cox was previously involved in employment provider services through the not-for-profit Future Employment Opportunities. He no longer has a role with the organisation.

 

The extension to the Bendigo Airport is to facilitate religious pilgrimages to Bendigo.

The extension to the Bendigo Airport is to facilitate economic development in the City and to ensure the airport can continue to operate as a base for airborne emergency services such as fire-fighting aircraft.

The Australian Islamic Mission has not only purchased 5.2 acres for the proposed mosque they have also purchased 12 acres of surrounding vacant land. 

The Australian Islamic Mission has not purchased 12 acres of surrounding vacant land.





View of proposed Mosque, Rowena St, East Bendigo




source: The Age

source City of Greater Bendigo

image credits: Bendigo Advertiser

   

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