It’s no secret that I have strongly opposed the closure and sale of the South Grafton Visitor information Centre (VIC). Many local people share my concerns.
The VIC failed to attract a bid at auction and council has now placed a price of more than $1 million on this real estate.
I believe council should reconsider the issues and retain this asset with the following arrangements:-
– relocate the entire CVC Economic Development Unit (EDU) into this building
– train all EDU staff to be able to handle visitor enquiries on weekdays…..in addition to their other duties
– contract with a community group to operate the VIC on weekends and public holidays – some level of remuneration would be required
Some of the reasons this arrangement is desirable are as follows:-
– by far the largest tourism market for the Clarence Valley is the self-drive domestic market and this market extensively uses and relies on VICs
– other councils in regional Australia are funding improvement and expansion of their VIC services (check Blue Mountains and Coffs Harbour for just two examples)
– there is a need for good quality maps and brochures for visitors to this area and the EDU needs to operate from a central, high profile centre to work with advertisers and to use as a distribution centre to tourism businesses and supplementary information centres.
– the EDU can continue with their existing tourism work (including social media marketing) plus their other responsibilities from this high profile, well designed headquarters
– the VIC has excellent parking for cars, caravans, coaches
– the VIC has excellent rest-rooms
– the VIC is well sign-posted and is easy to find
– council has sold other council office buildings and then leased them back…..moving the EDU to the VIC will free up space in the existing council chambers and delay any future need to extend council chambers
– the land surrounding the VIC has already provided CVC with substantial funds vis lease payments and then sale of land to McDonalds (the entire site was purchased from the State Government for $17000 for the operation of a VIC)
– plus a large portion is now taken up by the park “Derek Palmer Place”
– if the VIC continues to operate with paid staff it fulfils the original conditions of the 1989/90 tourism SRV that is still collected by CVC from commercially zoned land
– Level 1 accreditation can be maintained for the VIC enabling continued listing in federal and state tourism material and assisting to gain grants and coverage from higher levels of tourism.
The South Grafton VIC is an asset that is highly value by this local community. If council retains this VIC and updates its operations and management the VIC will continue to serve this community most effectively and may well save council money compared to alternative arrangements.