Discredited lies: 'Helltown' mud sticks, even 21 years on
A DISHONEST men's magazine article from 21 years ago is still damaging Gympie's tourism reputation, Gympie Regional Council was told yesterday.
And that damage could be a lasting hindrance to the regional economy, especially after the Bruce Highway by-passes the city
That was clear from a council staff report on the region's tourism future, presented to councillors at their general meeting yesterday.
The report cited a 1997 article in Australian Penthouse as a possible cause of ongoing negative perceptions about Gympie, which was portrayed in the article as "Helltown".
The tourism report quoted focus group research suggesting "negative lingering sentiment towards Gympie (and therefore the region).
"Words such as boring, redneck, sleepy and uneventful were used by the focus group to describe the region," the report said.
But the focus group members did not know why they felt that way.
"The group found it difficult to identify the source of these perceptions other than from long ago, negative media articles," it said.
A footnote then identifies the article, which used crime and domestic violence figures from up to 130km away to defame the Gympie community.
The article took crime figures which included the distant centre of Cherbourg, in the South Burnett, and all points in between, on the grounds that Chrebourg was part of the Gympie police district.
It then added figures from Glenwood, in the Maryborough police district, apparently on the grounds that this was close enough.
Despite being written by Dr Paul Wilson, later jailed for a child sex offence, the mud apparently still sticks to Gympie.
The possibility that this could cause some business problems when the Bruce Hwy by-passes the city, was illustrated by the focus group's perception that Gympie city is "only a pit stop "
Based on the research Gympie is "not viewed as a viable holiday destination by people from outside the region but instead is only seen as a utility stop," the report says.
The report comes in the form of a document called "Gympie Region Tourism discussion Paper 2018 - 2028." prepared by Lynne Banford.
Sub-titled "Tourism: From Good to Great," the paper is mostly good news about tourism's major economic contribution, but identifies this image problem as a significant consumer perception hurdle.
It described some tourism infrastructure as "tired" and under-supported.
The discussion paper will be released for public comment for four weeks from next Thursday, with copies available online and in libraries.
It will then be re-released for further consultation in the New Year after initial adjustments, yesterday's council meeting was told.
Councillors adopted the discussion plan, a few expressing reservations about some details. .