This time of year Narooma Visitors’ Information Centre (VIC) and its unique Lighthouse Museum should be buzzing with tourists.
“Instead they stand empty and forlorn, seen by many locals and visitors as testament to Eurobodalla Shire Council’s lack of vision and failure to appreciate their potential,” said Narooma Historical Society President Laurelle Pacey.
“Historical Society members and many others in our community are so upset with Council, they’re prepared to demonstrate in the hope of having their concerns heard. We call on Council to change its current approach in the interests of our community.”
Ms Pacey said Narooma’s VIC and Lighthouse Museum were proudly built by Narooma people to showcase our area’s attractions especially Montague Island, Narooma’s major point of difference (see postscript). The building is on Crown Land managed by Council.
“Council’s current approach to VICs is contrary to extensive recent research that shows they still have a major role as the official supplier of trusted and comprehensive local information despite the plethora of information sources available on and offline,” she said. “Studies commissioned by Council in 2018 support this, as well as the significant economic benefits of VICs. Tourism is our major industry.”
The VIC has been vacant since May. Council has tried to lease the premises but so far without success. A major deterrent is the commercial rent Council wants of $2,800 a month. Any lessee will be required to keep and manage the Lighthouse Museum whose key priceless exhibits are on loan to Council (on behalf of our community) from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority.
“Narooma Chamber of Commerce, various Government agencies including National Parks & Wildlife Service, Fisheries NSW and Marine Parks (Primary Industry), Wollongong University as well as some indigenous groups and this Society are interested in making our VIC a showcase for our area’s unique and extensive natural and cultural assets, both indigenous and non-indigenous, including some interactive displays,” Ms Pacey said.
“Commercial rent is a major deterrent with no one at this stage willing to be the lead agency to take on such a liability. Perhaps our new Councillors should rethink Council’s strategy and scrap commercial rent for an appropriate lessee and ask them to only pay for water and power.”
Postscript: Construction of the original Information Centre was a community initiative in the early 1980s by the Narooma Area Tourist Association (NATA) to provide ‘a shop window’ for the southern part of the Shire. It was funded by raffles and other community fundraising, with some assistance from New South Wales Tourism and Eurobodalla Shire Council.
The addition of the Lighthouse Museum in 1990 was again a community initiative driven by Narooma Apex members with grants from NSW Tourism Commission, the Australian Bicentennial Authority and some assistance from Eurobodalla Shire Council. Local tradesmen and other volunteers donated about 4,000 hours of labour; today their contribution would be valued at over $250,000.
Above: Instead of buzzing with visitors at this time of year, Narooma Visitors’ Information Centre (VIC) and Lighthouse Museum stand vacant and forlorn. The building also shows it needs some TLC.