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Where a paper boundary ignores a gem

Eurobodalla Council is calling for submissions to its Draft Eurobodalla Event Strategy with the closing date for submissions being Wednesday 17 July 2019

Council advises that the purpose of the Strategy “is to guide Council planning and decision making over the next five years to best support events to help grow the local economy and assist local event organisers. It aims to establish a balanced and sustainable portfolio of vibrant tourism and community events.”

While it reads well and once again reflects the excellent work that is carried out for Council by consultants it does smack of a parochialism that all but snubs the very successful Sculpture For Clyde event that takes place, in part, each year in Batemans Bay and to our north, across a shire border, at Bawley Point in.... Shoalhaven Shire.

The ongoing disdain of this event by Eurobodalla Council is becoming an embarrassment for them and serves no purpose or benefit for the Eurobodalla community.

Fact: The Sculpture For Clyde event is of International standard and is hosted in two locations within immediate proximity of Batemans Bay, its attractions, accommodation, hospitality and services.

Council in their Draft Event Strategy suggest they wish to “Grow and support two Hallmark Events that showcase Eurobodalla’s unique qualities naming these as the Narooma Oyster Festival and the River of Art” adding that they want to “plan for identifying the best events to attract, develop and grow and build a balanced and sustainable portfolio of events that contribute to the local economy and provide social outcomes for local communities” with a “focus on events that are managed or organised by groups outside of Council”

Surely the Sculpture For Clyde event qualifies to be included as a Hallmark event. Held over a week each August/September and organised by volunteers Sculpture For Clyde came into being with intent of encouraging visitation to the area in a shoulder period by presenting an international quality exhibition which also provides a legacy for the Batemans Bay and wider community via an acquisition of public art to be enjoyed year round.

The bonus of this event is that it is now generously supported by Willinga Park as a stunning venue that provides an even greater drawcard that sees visitors from Sydney to Melbourne and beyond enjoy a quality of exhibition rarely displayed in Australia.

By Council’s own draft document they cite: “RESEARCH INDICATES THREE-QUARTERS OF EVENT ATTENDEES WOULD NOT HAVE GONE TO A DESTINATION, IF NOT FOR AN EVENT. IN ADDITION, FOR 57% OF FIRST-TIME VISITORS TO THE REGION, THE EVENT IS THE MAIN REASON FOR VISITING AND LIKEWISE FOR 69% OF REPEAT VISITORS.”

The attendance data of Sculpture For Clyde clearly indicates that the event is most definitely a Hallmark event on the South Coast.

The Mayor, in her introduction to the Events Strategy says “Events have the potential to deliver a range of positive impacts for Eurobodalla including: direct and indirect economic and tourism benefits; greater awareness of the Eurobodalla as an attractive place to live, visit and invest; opportunities for new infrastructure development; creativity, innovation and community pride.”

“We are proud to support events in Eurobodalla and we look forward to working with local and external event organisers to grow events that create fun and vibrancy for our residents and visitors.”

And there you have it “We are proud to support events in Eurobodalla.”

This may explain why Eurobodalla Council continues to not show support of the Sculpture For Clyde event, either with financial assistance or in-kind other than to have the event listed in their Events Calendar.

The caustic divide between the Council and the Event came to a head just after last years event when Council insisted that they be given access to the accounts of the event and that they also place one of their staff on the judging panel. They also insisted on selection of the location for the acquired winning piece irrespective as to whether it might be in context or suitable.

Council in their strategy state “Hallmark Events drive economic development of Eurobodalla and have the potential to become nationally significant events which attract interstate visitation, and generate awareness for Eurobodalla in line with the destination brand positioning.”

Council then goes on to describe a Hallmark Event as: usually recurring and multiple days; are Shire wide; have a well-structured and organised event management committee or company with access to operational and marketing expertise; take place outside the peak tourism period; draw at least 60% of attendees from outside the Shire; generate triple bottom line benefits; attract national and international media coverage; create partnerships with local businesses to ensure maximum spend locally; generate significant value and add to local businesses; engage with the local tourism industry with a view to building partnerships that drive visitation; generate or self fund a considerable portion of the event; build Eurobodalla brand awareness and deliver enormous value as destination marketing tools; have strategies for measuring visitation and the visitor experience; have a sound environmental policy; foster community pride and have a robust post event review and analysis process.

Yet they fail to recognise the Sculpture For Clyde event even though it ticks every box of the above.

Destination NSW is very much aware of the quality of the Sculpture For Clyde event and the value that it brings to the region and that is why they support it with financial and marketing assistance.

It is time for the Eurobodalla Council to put aside its differences with the Bay Chamber and the Sculpture For Clyde event and to embrace the fact that while Willinga Park might be in the Shoalhaven the thousands who visit that international equestrian icon every year to see and experience award winning international design at its best have to stay somewhere and most often they choose to visit Batemans Bay as part of their journey bringing much needed tourism spend to our towns and to our businesses. Note to the Mayor: Visitors to the South East of NSW do not care where shire boundaries are. They see the South Coast of NSW as a destination as they arrive from the west, north, south or from overseas. Your little kingdom of Eurobodalla is irrelevant to them, so much so that no-one knows where Eurobodalla is nor cares. It is an administrative area. To the visitor they are on the #unspoilt #wonderful #southcoast with #nature, #beaches, #mountains, #food, #dairy, #fun and #sea

The Draft Events Strategy overall is a motherhood document that ticks a box somewhere saying that the Eurobodalla is open for business if anyone would like to come forward with an event idea.

Does the Event Strategy actually offer any ideas of what events might bring higher visitation all year around. With no money of their own to invest in events there is little that Council can do to stimulate investors and event organisers to the area other than to say they will limit the red tape and help out where they can.

The reality remains that “RESEARCH INDICATES THREE-QUARTERS OF EVENT ATTENDEES WOULD NOT HAVE GONE TO A DESTINATION, IF NOT FOR AN EVENT. IN ADDITION, FOR 57% OF FIRST-TIME VISITORS TO THE REGION, THE EVENT IS THE MAIN REASON FOR VISITING AND LIKEWISE FOR 69% OF REPEAT VISITORS.”

And what event might be the key event that attracts attendees to the South Coast and remains the primary reason for them coming back?”

Summer.


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