Cr Peter Ellem
Cr Peter Ellem Adam Hourigan Photography

Council continues to fund tourism promotion

CLARENCE Valley ratepayers will continue to fund tourism promotion and development despite claims local operators are so busy they don't need it.

At Tuesday's Clarence Valley Council meeting, Cr Andrew Baker presented a notice of motion aimed at getting the council out of tourism promotion and handing the job to a private organisation and spending the money saved on revamping popular tourism spots around the region.

The NOM was a response to the council's attempts to revive its Tourism Advisory Committee with a call for industry figures to join a new committee to guide industry policy, which resulted in just two of the 10 industry positions on the committee being filled.

Cr Baker said there were good reasons tourism operators boycotted the panel: they were so busy they couldn't afford the time and the area was so busy it did not need to attract more visitors.

But councillors were not persuaded of the need to give in just yet.

Cr Peter Ellem described Cr Baker's motion as inspired by Dr Seuss.

"... It's probably an amalgam of The Cat in the Hat Comes Back and How The Grinch Stole Christmas," he said.

"Cr Baker certainly does keep coming back to one well-worn theme: Clarence Valley Council should exit tourism and economic development, and hand them over to local businesses, who he claims are too lazy or disinterested to be bothered with either.

"If Cr Baker's notice of motion is successful today, four of our tourism staff will be told just weeks before Christmas that they will be out of a job by June 30 next year, so he, and any other councillor who supports him, will be targeting those staff and their families."

Cr Ellem said the council had already cut back its tourism budget and it needed more time to see if the transition to a more digitally focused delivery of tourism services would work.

"Council this year resolved to cut the tourism budget from $547,000 a year to $301,000, mainly by closing visitor information centres in South Grafton and Maclean, which once served us well but which don't get much foot traffic through them these days," he said.

Cr Karen Toms was not convinced by the claim the area was "full" of tourists.

"We might be overpopulated with workers, but some of those areas would love to have more tourists in those regions," she said.

Mayor Jim Simmons and Cr Richie Williamson said elements of Cr Baker's motion were attractive, but could not support the package.

 

Cr Baker said his motion was not about cutting back tourism promotion, but reducing the council's financial exposure to it.

He said the council received no benefit from tourism, but bore a cost.

"If we're not gaining from tourism business, we need to get rid of the cost," he said.

His motion was beaten 6-2.



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