In January last year I was advised by the General Manager’s (GM) office at Clarence Valley Council (CVC) that because I did not agree with Council’s decisions and direction in tourism, Council will not be answering any outstanding, current or future questions I may ask Council about that subject.
This was despite the fact CVC acknowledged that I had successfully managed local tourism services for more than 20 years and despite me offering to assist Council to better understand the local industry for zero remuneration.
Council has continued to cash-in or destroy the assets accumulated by local tourism industry representatives who had voluntarily administered the former Clarence River Tourist Association (CRTA) for many decades.
Since sacking the CRTA management board Council has wasted hundreds-of-thousands of ratepayer’s dollars on tourism projects which have pitifully failed time and time again.
I believe that a number of issues deserve to be exposed so the community can see how their money is being spent and how their Council is behaving.
It’s called “transparency” and “accountability”.
On January 25 this year, bearing in mind my ban, I decided to ask a CVC councillor to seek answers from the GM and the Mayor to just six (new) questions that I regarded to be very relevant and important to our community.
The councillor covered my questions to the GM and the Mayor in a very respectful manner……the result?……nothing…zero…..zip…..it is now March 17 and this GM and this Mayor have totally ignored the email from this elected councillor.
To ban a ratepayer from asking questions is pretty sad but to ignore reasonable, valid questions posed by an elected councillor is dysfunctional and totally unacceptable.
What would these questions reveal that needs to be withheld from councillors and the community?
Well here they are:-
1) Did CVC sell the entire car parking area to McDonalds in South Grafton…..and, if so, is this the reason there’s zero interest in the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) sale?
2) Why has CVC allowed the VIC to become filthy and unsightly (including the pond) when this must impact on potential value….plus it is an eyesore at the front door to Grafton and the Valley?
3) When the Stafford Report recommended closing one local VIC they quoted the visitor numbers using the two local VICs (from memory over 80,000 per year) and made no reference to the CRTA website, marketing, telephone, or email responses….nor results of CRTA brochures distributed via other VIC’s and via local operators etc etc.
To compare apples with apples, how many people now use the Grafton Gallery and Calypso Caravan Park specifically for tourist information each year? If these statistics are not available, why not?
4) Why didn’t CVC relocate councils economic development & tourism staff to the South Grafton VIC to maintain this valuable tourism service in the best location for visibility, parking, public amenities etc?
Would this not also diminish the need to expand staff accommodation at the Grafton Civic Centre in the future?
5) Why does CVC regard people who offer alternatives to Council adopted strategies as “the enemy” when there may be considerable merit in advice offered by people with experience in a specific field?
6) How does CVC refusing to answer past, present or future questions from a local ratepayer because that ratepayer does not support CVC strategies in a specific field, align with CVC responsibilities to be transparent and accountable?
Perhaps a journalist from your newspaper may wish to ask these same questions of the GM and the Mayor and allow the public to judge the results.
Hopefully a range of new candidates who genuinely believe local government should be transparent and accountable will line up at Council elections this September.
Former Manager Clarence River Tourist Association & Former Councillor Maclean Shire Council