December 1 is the first day of summer, and for most of us, the countdown to Christmas has begun.

Have you set up your Christmas tree yet? Will it be a real tree or a fake one? Mine is real, and in an effort to bring this year to a close, I got mine up a week early!

On reflection. it’s been a tough year. Interest rate rises and the endless cost of living increases have put enormous pressure on everyone this year. It hasn’t been made any easier with backpedaling on promised funding decisions such as the cancelling of the Commonwealth Games. Could they even cancel Christmas? Surely not.

I took the kids down to see the famous Geelong Floating Christmas Tree, and having a look underneath I couldn’t see any of the presents we expected to get. Where is the $2.6 billion of state government funding earmarked for the Games? Where did it go? Will the indoor sporting complex at Waurn Ponds ever be built? This project would have added eight desperately needed indoor sport courts for netball and basketball. Basketball is fast becoming the biggest participant sport in Geelong with more than 3,787 junior players and 432 junior teams playing this summer, all trying to fit into a handful of outdated, retrofitted sheds. The Waurn Ponds project, although not enough, would have plugged a big whole for local junior sport.

What about the big election promise given to Armstrong Creek residents to provide the $292 million multi-sports complex? The venue would have featured multi-sport courts, a community pool and green open space. At the cancelation of the Games, the state government confirmed that this project would continue and be funded, yet locally it is noted that key design and project staff have been moved off this project. It is on hold for months and with the movement of staff, from the outside, this looks to be ominous.

We already know that the government has cancelled the Geelong Fast Rail project. Personally, I think this is a good decision; $2 billion to save 10 minutes is a joke. Let’s spend that money on desperately needed junior sporting facilities and with a bit of the loose change, I have one more big wish from Santa!

Please can we use some of this money to compulsorily acquire Market Square, knock it over and give Geelong a city heart. Geelong councilors this week have done what they can – the City of Greater Geelong has released the Market Square Quarter Masterplan, providing a vision and guidance for future redevelopment of both Market Square and the surrounding CBD streets. However, in the same week Lindcraft has announced they are closing their store within the complex. This is on top of the exodus of EB Games, Panache Café and My Size. All of these retailers have gone within the past few months. Market square is becoming an abandoned wasteland; at least it still has JB HiFi and that cheap undies shop!

Some good Christmas cheer is that the property market is looking stronger for next year. According to Domain’s 2023 end of year wrap, the 2024 outlook report expects continued growth in housing prices. The government will ignite the first home buyers’ market with the federal “Help to Buy” shared equity scheme of up to 40 per cent of a home price. This four-year program begins in 2024. There was talk of a rate cut in 2024 – although a lot of pundits have jumped off this bandwagon, I remain hopeful for a late 2024 cut and this will take pressure off everyone. What would also help, and is probably more likely, is some easing of the mortgage serviceability buffer. Both would help unlock a lot of capital and take pressure off families.

Locally, we also hope to see the draft Pakington Street (Geelong West) and Gordon Avenue Precinct Structure Plans finally be released, and perhaps even the completion of the planning phase of the Northern or Western Growth Corridors. Could either turn any soil in 2024? By June, I expect to see cranes everywhere, but be warned: the price of a sausage roll and morning coffee is about to jump – with all these cranes come the tradies!

So, let’s get into the Christmas spirit; I’m wearing my Christmas hat to work all month!

This article written by Gareth Kent appeared in the Geelong Times on 8th December, 2023.