Dear Beagle Editor, Your southern readers in the Bega Shire might be interested in out media release entitled: same old, same old …
In January of this year, the Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association (BVSRRA) announced that it was increasing its focus on the activities & performance of the local tourism industry, in particular as Bega Valley Shire Council (BVSC) had demonstrably failed to adequately direct the activities of Sapphire Coast Tourism (SCT) over the previous 10 years, during which time it had received between $3m-$4m in ratepayers’ funds to promote the industry, but with little demonstrable success.
The BVSRRA quickly came to understand that BVSC had put no objective performance requirements or measures in-place to govern the activities of SCT & couldn’t even confirm the exact amount of ratepayers’ funds had been paid to the organisation to underwrite its activities.
In February, BVSC's Tourism Industry Liaison Group (TLG) reported to BVSC on its findings regarding the future direction of the sector, voicing its support for, amongst other things, a greater level of investment in promoting the sector.
While the TILG did not make any specific recommendations regarding the level of expenditure that it believed was appropriate, it did align its views with those of SCT, which, for the past few years, was arguing for a level of expenditure on a par with the Eurobodalla Shire.
The TILG report also failed to make any specific recommendations on how the funding arrangements for the promotion of tourism should be changed in order to support a greater level of investment than is currently being made.
Many residents & ratepayers are probably unaware of the fact that the support funding provided to SCT over the past decade has been sourced via a special rate variation on commercially zoned & rated properties in the shire’s towns, but excluding tourism businesses such as accommodation providers. This arrangement has been widely criticised for many years, in particular as it is seen by many as evidence that the tourism operators are not pulling their weight.
Evidence of BVSC’s intentions in that regard are now clear & are evidenced in the draft OperatIng Plan & Budget (page 122) which reveals:
“Another goal of Council is to seek further funding for tourism and economic development from the financial year 2019-2020 of $300,000.
To enact the above initiatives, Council can apply for a special rate to vary general income by an amount greater than the annual rate peg, which has been forecasted to remain at 2.3%. Alternatively, they can be funded through reduced service levels in other areas or increased borrowings.”
This means that BVSC intends to almost double the current annual promotional spend of $328,000 to more than $600,000.
However, it now seems clear that BVSC intends all ratepayers will contribute to the more than $600,000 in planned promotional spending for tourism: a major change in policy proposed without any justification or consultation with the community.
While the BVSRRA accepts that businesses who are currently unfairly burdened with the cost of this unjustified subsidy for the tourism sector will be happy to see that burden shared, it is equally certain that ordinary ratepayers won’t be so appreciative of being asked to carry an additional impost, whether by direct funding through an increase in rates or via a reduction in current services.
The full text of this Media Release is available here … http://www.begavalleyshireratepayers.asn.au/files/Bega-Valley-Shire-Residents---Ratepayers-Association---Media-Release---same-old,-same-old---02.05.2018.pdf
Bega Valley Shire Residents & Ratepayers Association