Bega District Letters to the Editor, April 27

Yuin Folk Club committee members Graeme Fryer and Coral Vorbach present a cheque for $1285 to Deputy Mayor  Liz Seckold for the Tathra bushfire Mayoral Appeal Fund.
Yuin Folk Club committee members Graeme Fryer and Coral Vorbach present a cheque for $1285 to Deputy Mayor Liz Seckold for the Tathra bushfire Mayoral Appeal Fund.

Why subsidise tourism?

The tourism industry is crying poor and trying to hit the council for even more than the $325,000 subsidy they already receive (BDN, 17/4).

Why should tourism, alone of all local industries, receive even  a dollar of council funds to subsidise their profits? If I want to open a shop will council subsidise me? If I want to build a factory will council provide  a handsome cash advance? If there is a bad season on the farm will the council help? 

Make no mistake, tourism provides some low level jobs, often underpaid, but it costs the community far more than it brings in. All the coastal town populations boom, sometimes by a factor of five, over the holiday season. That means the council has to charge its ratepayers to build infrastructure for water, sewerage and other services five times larger than it needs for the residents who pay the rates.

At Bermagui, and I believe at other boat launch sites, water is provided for free so visitors can wash their boats and cars for free. Meanwhile every litre a ratepaying gardener puts on their tomatoes is charged by council.

Tourism is more curse than blessing. The more successful it is the more it destroys the town. Go to Byron Bay and you will queue for two hours just to get into the town. Try Noosa Heads, Port Douglas, the same story: the rich tourist operators get richer and the local residents, not only pay for it with their rates, they pay to get priced out of their own town. Do we really want to go that way with Bermagui, Tathra, Merimbula, Pambula and Eden and all the other gems along the coast?

Tourism must become self-supporting. Let there be a bed tax of $10 per visitor night. Let all the visiting boats who use the launching ramps pay $10. Pay the people who presently volunteer at the tourist centres, and charge the tourists for the information they want. Cut the council subsidy by $100,000 each year until we reach zero subsidy. Local tourist operators can use the funds raised by the taxes suggested to look after themselves.

The council can then stop charging residents ridiculous amounts of money to rent a community hall. The council can actually stand on the same side as the residents. It will be  welcome.

Keith Bashford, Wallaga Lake

Exaggerated importance

The Bega Valley Shire Residents and Ratepayers Association believes one of the main reasons  Sapphire Coast Tourism has lost so much standing over its stewardship of the shire’s tourism sector is its readiness to exaggerate its own importance (BDN, 17/4). SCT chairman Bruce Lever was quoted in your report as claiming “half the shire's economy is tourism related”, with “almost 5000 people directly or indirectly reliant on the sector for their jobs”. Meanwhile the latest statistics published on council's website indicate that the tourism and hospitality sector accounts for only $268million or 9.2% of the shire's total output/sales, while it employs only 1454 people (1222 FTEs).

In recent years the BVSRRA has been critical of both SCT and council for its persistent failure to put in place visible measures of performance as an essential prerequisite to justify the investment being made by ratepayers in the sector. Indeed, by its own admission, the only performance objective that the sector has ever pursued is an increase in the number of overnight stays. By that measure alone, the BVSRRA contends that both SCT and council have failed, with the number of overnight stays declining by 7.5% since 2008/09, while employment (FTEs) has declined by 17% and the value of output/sales by 4.5% over the same period.

While the BVSRRA believes that SCT has acted with the very best of intentions, the fact remains it has not delivered an adequate return on the more than $3m invested in its activities by ratepayers. That said, accountability for that outcome must rest squarely on the shoulders of council and it will continue to do so until a genuine, performance-based model is put in place to guide the future development of the sector.

John Richardson, BVSRRA