The decision by Clarence Valley Council (CVC) to slam the doors shut on the Visitor Information Centre (VIC) at South Grafton in just a few weeks time and transfer VIC staff into the council chambers is like transferring council road gangs to the indoor staff and then wondering why there are so many unfilled potholes on local roads.
Can you imagine a visiting family towing a caravan trying to find the council chambers, then trying to find a parking spot, then expecting to receive useful material and then wanting to use the rest rooms in Grafton or in Maclean?
To make matters worse, councillors recently voted to immediately sell the award-winning South Grafton VIC at auction….so there is no plan B…no turning back when councillors finally realise that they have been led up the garden path by empire-building senior staff. Only Councillors Deb Novak, Karen Toms and Greg Clancy voted against the staff recommendation to immediately sell this irreplaceable site.
The other six councillors have sat by and silently witnessed how this council has totally mismanaged the local VICs and local tourism services over the last 4 years…spending ratepayer funds on failed project after failed project. It would take pages to detail each failure but never before has local government in the Clarence Valley spent so much on tourism services for such pathetic results.
Local business operators have always been prepared to invest in effective tourism services and for decades local industry managed local tourism services via the board of the Clarence River Tourist Association (CRTA)…..widely regarded as one of the best tourism authorities in Australia.
During these years, local businesses paid substantial money to advertise in and fully fund all major tourism publications….they also agreed to pay an annual Special Rate Levy to fund staffing of the South Grafton VIC back in 1990 (only levied on commercially zoned properties)….plus they contributed to a host of tourism projects.
However, our local business operators are not fools and they can recognise a dud deal when they see one. They have shunned project after project put forward by council’s Economic Development Unit over the last 4 years. You would think that the majority of councillors would be embarrassed and demand some answers from the senior staff responsible for this mess….but they just sit up and clap like trained seals as these projects fail, one after another.
But wait!!!…senior council staff backed by the majority of councillors have a solution….take the hard work and success that other people have contributed over the decades and hijack the 1990 tourism SRV (worth around $200,000 per year)….plus sell that very valuable real estate at South Grafton….and to cap it off….adopt a brand new SRV (their last one was just 2 years ago) and force all ratepayers, including pensioners, to pay an extra 27% over the next 4 years….mismanagement and waste can grow to even higher levels!
This council doesn’t have an income problem….this council has a spending and management problem.
Unfortunately their mismanagement of tourism is not an isolated issue and there are projects from the South Grafton works depot to the Maclean supermarket that echo similar stories.
But they want to inflict even more financial pain via their new SRV on everybody including some of the most vulnerable members of our community….it’s time for all good citizens to stand up and say “enough”.
Former CRTA manager
Former Maclean Shire councillor