The Beagle Editor, MACS and the Narooma Lighthouse Museum
The Narooma Tourist Information Centre and the Lighthouse Museum share the same building in the heart of the town. Both are to close their doors this May until Council can find a new tenant prepared to pay market value rent. The especially designed museum extension was carried out as a result of campaigning and funding from the local community, the NSW Tourist Commission, the Eurobodalla Shire Council, Apex, and lighthouse enthusiasts who also contributed many hours of voluntary work to the building. The Narooma location was chosen as the a most appropriate place for the original Montague Island light after it had been replaced by an automatic light in 1986. It was originally cared for by council with free admission being given to the Lighthouse area, and leased to MACS (Montague Arts and Craft Society) in 20I6 on the understanding that this care be continued and general tourist information provided.
We are a coastal community and the original light and objects (signal flags, poster, etc.) from Montague Island are symbols of the history and majesty of the lighthouses and a recognition of the bravery and commitment of the men and women who work tirelessly to keep us safe at sea.
News that the Narooma’s Tourist Information is to be digitised and the part of the building currently used to promote tourism to be rented out to an unknown business is alarming to residents and visitors who appreciate the friendly information given by volunteers of MACS and don’t wish it replaced by impersonal responses from electronic devices or limited information given out by businesses chosen by the Council.
The tourist advice and information MACS so expertly and freely gives is complemented by the sale of locally made art and craft, souvenirs, and local products that truly reflect the history, culture and community of our marine coast. The two sides of the building complement each other. Local artists’ paintings prove popular, as do shell mosaics, aboriginal postcards Australian toy birds and animals. Practical services also involve translating and interpreting electronic information, publicising community events, and providing bus bus information and tickets. A true heart of the community.
However the burden of providing such comprehensive tourist and community assistance in troubled times with little or no staffing or financial help from council is beginning to weigh heavily on MACS, although its great reputation for service and relevance has only increased over this time.
I understand that Montague Arts and Craft Society (MACS), might put in a submission for a continuation at least of the art and craft gallery along with management of the Lighthouse Museum at what they calls "a peppercorn rent” Council says it intends to have a registered valuer undertake a valuation to determine what the rent should be at market value. They did this at Batemans Bay as well and as a consequence good, local community groups did not lodge expressions of interest. Then as a kick in the guts to those community groups the winning tenderer stated they weren't able to pay full rental and would council consider a discount. But none of that came out until after tenders closed and councillors voted. Now we are seeing a repeat. How can a market rental rate be established if the lessee is required, by the lease, to look after the museum, to allow visitors, to cover those visitors under their insurance, to be a "business partner" with Council and provide tourism information while conducting whatever business they have, be it a food outlet, real estate office or yoga studio.
Will the local Council, already heavily committed to the expense of providing a grand tourist attraction in Batemans Bay be prepared to show real concern for community values and our close connection with the ocean, or will the lease of this vital building just go to the highest bidder? Let your opinion be known to Councillors before they make the final decision.