Published online by Cobram Courier on May 9, 2014.
This article was also published in print on May 7.
Cobram Barooga Business and Tourism Development group chairman Paul Gemmill has slammed Moira Shire Council’s inaction and ‘‘mixed messages’’ on tourism and business.
Mr Gemmill said a ‘‘lack of communication inside the organisation’’ and ‘‘lack of leadership at the top’’ were delaying the tourism sector restructure process, which began last year following the dissolution of the Sun Country on the Murray tourism board.
The change required local tourism associations like CBBTD to prepare business plans before accessing council funding, and handed management of visitor information centres back to the associations.
Mr Gemmill said he was ‘‘disappointed’’ the group had only received a ‘‘vague’’ letter in response to its business plan, submitted to council in March, and with ‘‘hearsay and innuendo’’ spread by council in the media.
He said council had also failed to supply the group with financial statements for the Cobram Barooga Visitor Information Centre to assist in the preparation of the business plan.
Announcing council’s draft 2014-15 budget last week, Moira Shire Mayor Peter Mansfield said council would consider paying the salaries of staff who continued to work in visitor information centres.
‘‘If Peter Mansfield is saying he wants to pay staff, we’re ecstatic,’’ Mr Gemmill said.
‘‘I would hope as mayor he would have some strong convictions, but I would hope that conviction came from something substantial and something tangible, but in saying that, we have not been in that discussion.
‘‘We were just as surprised as anyone out there when we read that.’’
Mr Gemmill would not say how much funding in the business plan was allocated for visitor information centre staff salaries, but said the funds would be redirected to events and promotion if council paid the salaries.
He said CBBTD and the other local tourism associations were feeling left out of discussions about the sector’s future, and wanted answers from council.
‘‘We’re on the same page, Yarrawonga (local tourism association) is on the same page — the shire is reading a different book,’’ Mr Gemmill said.
Moira Shire business and innovation executive manager Bruce Connolly this week reiterated his previous statement that visitor information centre staff would be re-deployed in other positions within council if their positions at the centres were lost.
Mr Connolly also said he had met with CBBTD twice since the group submitted its business plan, and said he had ‘‘a number of conversations’’ with Mr Gemmill on the issue.
The business plans are expected to be finalised by June 30.