Council ‘under-funding’ could see Sapphire Coast Tourism pack its bags

The future relationship between Bega Valley Shire Council and Sapphire Coast Tourism (SCT) appears to be uncertain after SCT said it was unable to bid for the contract to continue providing tourism marketing services to the shire.

SCT chairman Bruce Lever said the organisation cannot respond to the contract as it is a fixed price contract and not an invitation to tender – and at $325,000 pa, was not sufficient money to meet the terms of the tender document.

“We understand that this is ratepayers’ money, but there is chronic under-funding and each year we have to get the begging bowl out and ask for more and each year we say let’s put something in place,” Mr Lever said.

“Basically we can’t sign up for something we can’t deliver,” Mr Lever said.

From the $325,000 pa, $90,000 is spread thinly around the shire’s Visitor Information Centres, wages for 1.8 full time equivalent staff must be paid to the tourism manager, along with a car and rent for the office, currently at Pambula.

Mr Lever said it leaves around $13,000 to work with, which is why every year SCT asks for more help from council. The seven-person board of SCT is voluntary and doesn’t even get paid expenses. He points to adjacent Eurobodalla Shire where the annual tourism spend is $1.3million.

Mr Lever also points out that half of the shire’s economy is tourism related and in the financial year 2016/17, $412million was generated from tourism, with almost 5000 people directly or indirectly reliant on the sector for their jobs.

The money for tourism is generated by two special rate variations, one set up in 2007/08 financial year and which now generates $195,000, and one set up in financial year 2011/12 which now generates about $290,000. These rate variations are approved for specific purposes and if used for other purposes would be in breach of the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal approval.

A meeting for those responding to the tender documents is planned for Thursday afternoon and Mr Lever said he would attend. The matter is also expected to be debated in council although this may not be until sometime late in May as the tenders close on May 2.

“We’re hoping to explain to the community that the future is important and that we have to be really smart,” Mr Lever said.

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