Valley's tourism service axed by council
IT TOOK Clarence Valley councillors just a few minutes at Tuesday's ordinary meeting to axe funding to the tourism organisation it has financed for 38 years.
At the meeting staff of Clarence River Tourist Association shuffled into the public gallery, only to traipse back out with uncertain futures after seeing just one councillor vote against plans to return control over tourism services to the local authority.
In May the council heard legal advice that its deal with the association did not comply with the Local Government Act and it would need to go out to tender when funding expired in June 2014.
The local authority paid a consultant $30,000 to review its tourism services and the report was made public last Friday, with the council's general manager, Scott Greensill, recommending councillors adopt "model 2" from the Clarence Valley Tourism Services Review.
This would give the council control over tourism and visitor services rather than it funding an external body.
Staff estimated this model would save the council $640,000 across four years should it shut the Grafton visitor centre and halve the staffing costs, in the process increasing the use of technology.
The council funds CRTA to the tune of $737,000 a year.
But in supporting the proposal on Tuesday, Mayor Richie Williamson denied it was about cutting costs.
"Can I state that CRTA has served the Clarence Valley well," he said.
"This is not a cost-cutting exercise. This is about looking into the future and what tourism services in the Clarence Valley will look like into the future."
Councillor Jim Simmons said he was concerned he did not have enough time to "digest" the report as he'd missed out on a tourism workshop the other councillors attended.
Cr Jason Kingsley said the Clarence Valley was competing against other areas that had far more to offer.
"The delivery of tourism services should be a constant work in progress so we aren't left behind," he said.
Cr Margaret McKenna, formerly a CRTA board member, said there needed to be a more "cohesive structure" around how tourism was run.
"We're not saying volunteers are gone or staff are gone. We're just saying this is a new approach," she said.
All councillors voted in favour of the changes, except Cr Simmons, who voted against, and Karen Toms, who declared a conflict of interest due to her operating a tourism business.
The report suggested the industry, which contributed about $170,000 each year through its commercial levy, would still have an important role, "potentially through involvement on a tourism advisory group".
The new model will kick into place at the end of the current agreement with the CRTA in June 2014.
Pick up tomorrow's Daily Examiner to see what people in the industry think or tell us what you think by emailing letters@daily examiner.com.au.