Opinion Editorial:

For the past two years, we have significantly changed the way we live and work, perhaps even changed our outlook on life. What we thought was a few months of impact from the pandemic, maybe 12 months at most, has now become an ongoing battle of economic and psychic survival.

The debate about economic needs versus health needs can no longer be seen as binary. With the onslaught of Omicron, we are now seeing that our economic futures are inextricably linked to our human health. Every day we are confronted with the reality of COVID’s impact on our way of life. Visit a supermarket or order some goods online and you will experience the pressures on our supply chains as more workers are either unwell, isolating, or unwilling to risk exposure.

Governments are moving to free up labour and change the rules regarding close contacts and access to rapid tests to get more people back into working environments. However, many of us are hesitant to return to the office, attend large events or mix with people in enclosed environments, and this is impacting on how our economy functions.

This brings us to the continuance of ongoing uncertainty, anxiousness, and tenuous planning for 2022 and beyond. Working through how we should feel and what we should hope for as a community is challenging.

In life, there are things we can control and things we can’t. What is in our control is how we approach this situation mentally. Yes, it is difficult to navigate, but there is also opportunity.

During the pandemic we have seen huge growth in value of our residential property, and with it, more people moving to live in our region. With this growth comes opportunity for investment and job creation to help build our region for decades to come.

Just prior to Christmas, there was a greatly anticipated announcement about progression on the Geelong Convention and Exhibition Centre (GCEC) project. The jewel in the Geelong City Deal crown, this project has been a long-term vision of many in Geelong, including the Committee for Geelong.

It was great to hear about the extra $120 million in funding from the Victorian Government and imminent plans to call for expressions of interest in design, architecture and building. The $294 million total investment for the convention centre makes this project a significant public commitment to Geelong’s economic future, and a vote of confidence in Geelong’s role as Victoria’s largest city outside of the capital.

This investment also continues the vision of showcasing and leveraging Geelong’s incredible natural asset of a north-facing bay. It builds on the original vision of Steampacket Place and the redevelopment of the waterfront in the 1990s.

Since the 1990s, Geelong has faced several significant economic shocks: the collapse of Pyramid, the GFC and loss of heavy manufacturing jobs in the region. Our reinvention as a clever and creative city is focused on knowledge economy jobs, health, education and public sector investment, and tourism growth, which has positioned us well.

The GCEC is part of this reinvention and can be a truly iconic building on our waterfront to inspire us, draw visitation to the region, and showcase our creativity. We can’t miss the opportunity to design and create a venue of architectural importance to live and breathe our designation as a UNESCO Creative City of Design.

With all the uncertainty of the pandemic, we can aim to focus on building Geelong for the future. We can aim to be inspired by both the natural environment of the bay and the potential for the convention centre building to be a drawcard and showcase for the region.

Just as the Geelong Library architecture and the newly released designs for the Geelong Arts Centre have received accolades, so should the design of the Geelong Convention and Exhibition Centre – which will take centre-stage on our sparkling bay.

Jennifer Cromarty
Chief Executive Officer
Committee for Geelong