Mayor releases tourism report, vows to 'get on with it'

SOUTHERN Downs Regional Council has been told by the Tourism Transition Reference Group that an extra $110,000 per year will be required to fund a new single tourism entity.

The revelation comes as the council responded to public pressure and voted unanimously to release the report - and the TTG's recommendations - to the community yesterday.

The extra funding has been rejected by council, who insists it will continue to fund only through the $683,000 already allocated for tourism in its budget.

If all goes to plan, the new group - called Destination Southern Downs - will replace Granite Belt Wine and Tourism and Warwick Tourism and Events in less than four months.

Mayor Cr Peter Blundell will lead a working group made up of the CEO, senior council staff and the chairs of both tourism organisations to move ahead with establishing Destination Southern Downs.

Cr Blundell said the working group would keep the momentum going to establish Destination Southern Downs by July 1.

"As well as setting up the structure of the new entity, the working group will seek to keep all tourism operators up to date with the establishment of the single entity," he said.

"The working group will also start an expression of interest process to establish an inaugural chairman and board for the new organisation. It is envisaged that the new board will be skills based as well as representing the tourism industry of the region."

Despite the release of the report, there is still strong criticism within the council and the community.

The councillors who voted against the decision to merge the tourism bodies are now waiting to see what comes next, insisting they still remain skeptical of the decision.

Cr Jamie Mackenzie told the Daily News he was disappointed that a special meeting of the council was required just to publicly release the Transition Reference Group's report.

"At last month's meeting, we were not offered the opportunity to move that the report be circulated to the wider tourism community for public comment before the decision was made to amalgamate into one tourism entity," he said.

"In any case, we would welcome comments on the report from the public as we have no idea how council is going to afford it. "The next challenge for the tourism transitional reference group is to demonstrate before June 30 this year how one tourism entity can be funded on existing budget allocations or perhaps a rate rise or levy will be necessary?"

Deputy Mayor Cr Ross Bartley said he was still gobsmacked as to why the council felt the need to amalgamate everything.

"The delivery of the report to the general public has been handled badly," he said.

"I'm certainly waiting for the impact of it finally being released - it will be interesting to see how the community reports back to the council on how they feel about it."

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