Centre’s fate decided
Plans for sweeping changes to Cobram’s tourism industry have been amended following strong push-back from the community.
Moira Shire Council’s draft Visitor Services Strategy received a petition of more than 1000 signatures from locals who were worried about the fate of Cobram’s visitor information centre.
The original draft plan released in June did not include any mention of the future of Cobram’s visitor information centre, leading to fears the centre would close down.
Locals were therefore relieved when council released an amended Visitor Services Strategy, which planned for the centre to live on as a non-accredited visitor information centre.
The new Visitor Services Strategy passed unanimously at a council meeting on September 27 with nine amendments.
Moira Shire Council’s economic development manager Jane O’Brien said the amended draft was based on community feedback.
‘‘Council has absolutely taken on board people’s concerns and we have added four more recommendations,’’ Ms O’Brien said.
‘‘This is why consultation with the community is so important for us.’’
Cath Noonan was the person who organised the local petition to save the information centre, which gathered about 1350 signatures.
She said she was ‘‘on board’’ with some of the new changes, but wanted more council support to keep the centre running smoothly.
Under the amended plans, council would withdraw funding and accreditation from the centre, which would instead be run by a private owner.
‘‘I agree the centre should be non-accredited, but I don’t agree with council wanting the centre to be 100 per cent privatised so they can wash their hands of it,’’ Mrs Noonan said.
‘‘It still needs funding and control from the shire to make sure Cobram can keep its visitor information centre up and running.’’
She said Cobram needed a well-maintained tourist centre in order to remain a strong tourist town.
‘‘We have about 18 people that love to go in the centre and volunteer their time to run it because the centre is so important to the community,’’ she said.
Ms O’Brien said the decision to withdraw funding and accreditation was based on the centre’s falling visitor rate.
‘‘At the moment we spend around 60 per cent of our budget on the bricks and mortar side of the visitor information centre which services less than 20 per cent of the visitors,’’ she said.
‘‘We would reinvest some of the money we would save into online and targeting marketing practices.
‘‘It’s about reinvesting that money and is in no way a reduction of commitment to tourism from this organisation.’’
The money will go towards a number of ‘service strategies’ including a targeted visiting friends and relatives campaign, pop-up vans for major events and visitor information points with participating local businesses.
‘‘The world is changing and if we continue to operate the way we did 10 or 20 years ago we’re going to fall behind,’’ Ms O’Brien said.
‘‘The ratepayers pay their rates and they trust us to make wise decisions with the finances.
‘‘If we look at how we can get a higher return on investment we can get more visitors to the region which bolsters the local economy.’’