Letter to the Editor-Tuesday, November 26:Dangerous decision

FROM 1983 to 2003 a very large part of my life was dedicated to managing and growing tourism services within the Clarence Valley. It wasn't always easy as the Clarence River Tourist Association (CRTA) had a chequered history up until 1983 and there were five sceptical councils and hundreds of business operators to win over.

It was a long but exciting journey and with some wonderful staff, excellent CRTA management boards, highly co-operative councils and many highly supportive business operators we built one of the best tourism authorities in Australia.

The recent decision by Clarence Valley Council to terminate a current MOU and all future arrangements with the CRTA and then close the South Grafton visitor information centre within three years is alarming and fraught with danger for our local tourism industry, which has become our biggest local industry.

I cannot understand why the recently completed consultant's report was not released in draft form to allow general community input before adoption by the council. There are so many items in this report that are not accurate or not relevant to tourism in the Clarence Valley.

I cannot understand how councillors can adopt this report without so much as a question or a comment. I guess when you don't understand something it's hard to question a consultant's report that cost $30,000.

I can't understand how the council considered this matter without the input of the councillor with the most experience at the front line of the tourism industry, Karen Toms.

If this was the State Government she'd be Minister for Tourism. Within the CVC she feels she'll be in trouble if she offers guidance to other councillors and staff who have such little experience within the tourism industry.

One of the great tragedies of the consultant's report and CVC consideration of its content is that there is no appreciation of the history of many critical issues.

The first of these is CVC claiming the Commercial Rate Levy of $170,000 per annum to the CRTA is a council cost.

This levy was adopted by three councils in 1989/90 to replace CRTA business membership fees as a more effective way for local businesses to contribute to the running costs of the visitor centre at South Grafton.

If CRTA had not engineered this levy and the local business community not agreed to it, it would not exist today.

The second is the total disregard for the history of the purchase of the land and the construction of the South Grafton visitor information centre.

The CRTA selected the site, assisted with the land purchase from the NSW Government, and helped co-ordinate community and government contributions to the building costs.

Subsequently a section of this land was leased to McDonald's, but the rent paid by McDonald's is never credited to the CRTA while the costs for mowing and maintaining this front door to Grafton is inevitably allocated by CVC, in full, to the CRTA.

I have read the consultant's report and so much of it has little relevance to this area. There are great dangers in the direction CVC has taken. Of course there are ways to do some things better in future and save money - no-one should deny this.

It's not too late to revisit the council's decision and many people, including me, would be happy to work with CVC for the best possible outcomes.

Bill Day,
former CRTA manager,
Yamba.



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