Festival in need of redesign
Tourism Minister Paul Papalia has blasted Capes pollies for “talking down the region” after they voiced ongoing disquiet about the redesign of the Margaret River Gourmet Escape.
The WA Government released its promised request-for-proposal document last weekend, listing a who’s who of Margaret River stakeholders involved in giving feedback on the event as it has been run by IMG Culinary during the past six years.
But few organisations were willing to disclose detailed views to the Times for fear of wrecking the process — the same claim Mr Papalia alleged against MLAs Terry Redman and Libby Mettam.
“I’m getting pretty aggravated by their ill-informed public commentary,” he told the Times.
The local members have expressed worries about Margaret River losing out due to reports of the Escape including a major Swan Valley component, with the festival likely to be split across two weekends.
“It could result in a dilution of the Margaret River event,” Member for Vasse Ms Mettam said.
Although the minister said a “refresh” of the festival was due anyway, Warren-Blackwood Member Mr Redman said Labor looked to be using the redesign as an excuse to cut funding to the sector and feared Margaret River would be the poorer for it.
“I can’t see how Swan Valley is going to have iconic appeal as Margaret River. What’s the payoff ?” Mr Redman said.
“(Due to confidentiality), no one is ever going to know if the (funding) package is less or more.
“I’d be very surprised if there’s not a cut in funding.”
Mr Papalia said the criticism was “reckless”.
“I’ve said repeatedly a move to make things a bigger new attraction and much more beneficial for the State, and (Mr Redman’s funding) claims are ill-informed and can be damaging,” he said.
The minister said the finalised redesign of the festival would not be known until at least next month.
He also dismissed concerns the Margaret River region would be sidelined by the rejig.
“We are going to use this as a tool to bring more people to the State. I don’t understand the negativity around this,” he said.
Tourism Council of WA chief executive Evan Hall said the Escape needed an overhaul because it had not delivered on visitor numbers and the South West tourism sector needed greater benefits from limited funding. IMG Culinary declined to comment.