Australia Day will have a much-changed focus next month as the council backs away from hosting an official ceremony in Bega and switches the citizen awards presentation to a subsequent late afternoon council meeting.
While unconfirmed, it's understood from a number of sources the council is shifting its focus to Merimbula for the day's main celebration.
Bega has, since 1991, been the location for the official council-organised Australia Day celebration for the Bega Valley Shire, complete with citizenship ceremony, Shire Citizen of the Year awards, an Australia Day ambassador and various community festivities.
However, that's set to change from January 2020 with the council saying it wants to offer support to community-driven events in the towns and villages across the shire, rather than hosting a major one itself.
The move came as a shock to the Bega Lions Club, which has had its members manning the barbecue offering free Australia Day breakfasts every year (other than 2016-18 when it switched to lunchtime).
"It's our way of saying thank you to the people who have supported us through the year - and we get to meet a lot of people too," Lions member Bryson Banfield said this week.
Mr Bryson said the club was notified by letter three weeks ago that BVSC would not be holding a Bega Australia Day event and "suggesting it was due to a drop off in numbers attending".
Knocking that argument on the head, Mr Bryson said Lions had actually noticed an increase over the years and served around 200 breakfasts at the 2019 ceremony.
"They said it was us who weren't interested in doing it anymore, but we're always more than willing," Mr Bryson said.
"There will be plenty of people who go year after year very disappointed if it won't be happening.
"If it happens, in whatever format, we'll be there. However, I suspect council has already made the decision."
In response to questions from the Bega District News, the council said it "continues to value Australia Day and respects local communities' choice to celebrate this day in a way that is meaningful to them".
BVSC said a community event was planned for Bega and "understands this will include the traditional Bega Lions free breakfast", and that discussions were "in progress on how council can best support this community initiative".
However, they acknowledged there had been a shift of people attending local celebrations in other town and villages across the shire rather than the official ceremony in Bega.
"In light of this, council will be supporting these community driven events on the day. Citizenship ceremonies are planned for Bega and Merimbula, pending conferees being available to attend. We encourage community groups interested in participating on the day to contact the respective organising committees in town centres across the shire."
As for the annual and celebrated Shire Citizen of the Year Awards, those won't even be presented on the day at all. Instead they are to be conferred after the January 29 council meeting, the BVSC said.