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Tourism committee headed for permanent holiday

Geoff Helisma

At last week’s Clarence Valley Council (CVC) Environment, Planning & Community Committee (EP&C) meeting, Cr Andrew Baker attempted to put a motion (seconded by the mayor, Jim Simmons) to end CVC’s management of tourism in the valley.

“I intend to jump in first on this one and move,” Cr Baker said, “point 1 and point 2 will be … receive a report from the general manager by February 2018 on the winding up and cessation of council’s tourism promotion activities.”

However, Cr Richie Williamson raised a ‘point of order’ and said, while he had “some sympathy for the proposed motion”, that it “should be contained to the advisory committee”; after which Cr Baker withdrew his motion.

However, Cr Baker hinted that what he had sought would “be reloaded at some point”.

Staff had recommended that CVC “not establish” a new tourism advisory committee, as a result of receiving just two nominations from the industry, despite advertising carried out over a four-week period: in newspapers (not including the Independent); on CVC’s website; with posts to CVC’s economic development and tourism & hospitality Facebook pages; and, by direct emails to 400 tourism-related businesses.

Staff also recommended that CVC “continue liaising” with the industry “through its business development and collaboration program, the Tourism & Hospitality Cluster”.

The committee unanimously supported the staff’s recommendation, without debate.

Meanwhile, at the June council meeting, councillors supported the reestablishment of a tourism advisory committee during preparation of CVC’s budget and operational plan, while giving consideration to submissions from the public.

During debate on the tourism aspect, brought as an amendment by councillors Toms and Novak (passed on the mayor’s casting vote), Cr Baker was strident in his opposition.

However, his reasoning appears to have been proven correct: he said, collectively, the valley’s tourism industry “just [doesn’t] care enough to put [its] hand up and do something”.

Ironically, at the August council meeting, Cr Baker successfully nominated himself for the advisory committee, on which councillors Toms and Clancy will also sit if the committee is constituted.

In the report to last week’s committee meeting, staff suggested that apathy towards re-establishing the tourism advisory committee was due to “owner operated businesses [being] time-poor and therefore invest[ing] carefully in their choices when engaging outside of their businesses”.

However, on the plus side, staff made their case for continuing with its current tourism-related strategies, advising that “it is clear from the numbers presented [about engagement with the tourism cluster] that Clarence Valley businesses choose to invest in skills development and collaboration over committees”.

Staff highlighted a number of tourism development events: “twelve (12) skills development and networking events have been held with four hundred and three (403) registrations – an average of thirty-three (33) registrations per workshop, and two (2) workshops reached a maximum of sixty (60) participants.”

Staff are banking on councillors deciding to “utilise the existing Tourism & Hospitality Cluster as the key conduit between Council and the tourism industry”, pointing out that a “committee with just two industry representatives [would] not [be] effective nor representative of the industry”.

Councillors made their decisions at yesterday’s council meeting (after the Independent went to press).