Join­ing forces

Ber­ri­gan Shire con­sid­ers tourism part­ner­ship with Sun Coun­try

Southern Riverina news - - Front Page - By Marissa Daly

BER­RI­GAN Shire Coun­cil (BSC) will con­sider a pro­posal to part­ner with tourism body Sun Coun­try on the Mur­ray.

BSC di­rec­tor of tech­ni­cal ser­vices Matt Hansen met with Sun Coun­try’s ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer to dis­cuss the plan and pre­pare an out­line for next Wed­nes­day’s gen­eral coun­cil meet­ing.

An in­vest­ment in Sun Coun­try would see Ber­ri­gan Shire aligned with Moira Shire and pos­si­bly Corowa Shire, who are also in pre­lim­i­nary talks with the group.

The move fol­lows last week’s Ber­ri­gan Shire Fu­tures Con­fer­ence where tourism was iden­ti­fied as a key growth fac­tor for its four towns for the next 10 years and be­yond.

It also comes af­ter a pe­riod of un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing the fu­ture of tourism in the area.

In BSC’s 2011-2012 man­age­ment plan, cur­rent tourism providers — Tocumwal on the Mur­ray and Co­bram Ba­rooga Ac­com­mo­da­tion Group — were not al­lo­cated their an­nual grant of $126,000.

While it is still un­clear how that money will be dis­trib­uted, Mr Hansen said the ‘‘rug would not be pulled out’’ from un­der the groups al­to­gether.

‘‘Coun­cil is work­ing hard to come up with a plan that works for ev­ery­one and is in the best in­ter­est of pro­mot­ing the area in the fu­ture.

‘‘We have a com­mit­ment to Tocumwal on the Mur­ray and the Ac­com­mo­da­tion Group. At this stage coun­cil are only look­ing at var­i­ous op­tions, no de­ci­sion has been made or will be made with­out con­sul­ta­tion.

‘‘We are try­ing to be as above board as pos­si­ble. Tocumwal on the Mur­ray and the Ac­com­mo­da­tion Group have both re­ceived copies of the (Sun Coun­try) pro­posal and know ex­actly what is go­ing on,’’ he said.

Mr Hansen said coun­cil faced the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion of how best to in­vest fund­ing for tourism to get max­i­mum re­sults.

De­spite the groups ‘‘work­ing very hard’’, Mr Hansen said the concern was that tourism for the shire was ‘‘a lit­tle un­fo­cused’’ and not work­ing in the most cost ef­fec­tive man­ner.

He said an­other fac­tor for con­sid­er­a­tion was the de­cline in lo­cal in­dus­try con­tri­bu­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Hansen, Tocumwal on the Mur­ray was set up by coun­cil in part­ner­ship with pri­vate en­ter­prise.

He said it was ‘‘dis­ap­point­ing’’ to see a ‘‘marked de­cline’’ in busi­ness sub­sidy.

‘‘We un­der­stand that times have been tough. We are in the po­si­tion now where coun­cil con­trib­ute ap­prox­i­mately $88,000 and lo­cal busi­ness $12,000, which is no longer a part­ner­ship,’’ Mr Hansen said.

The Sun Coun­try pro­posal will be tabled at next week’s meet­ing and Mr Hansen said it is likely coun­cil will move to es­tab­lish a shire-wide tourism fo­rum call­ing for in­put from a cross sec­tion of the com­mu­nity.

The con­sul­ta­tion would fo­cus on the po­ten­tial ben­e­fit of hav­ing cross bor­der tourism con­nec­tions and would also look at each town hav­ing a smaller visi­tor in­for­ma­tion cen­tre within a busi­ness in town.

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