THE WALHALLA & Mountain Rivers Tourism Association has quit both the Baw Baw Business Advisory Board (BAB) and the council’s tourism subcommittee.
First published in the 10 April 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
Organisation president Michael Leaney told councillors at their meeting on Wednesday the group was not satisfied with how the council’s newly adopted Tourism Development Plan represented the north-east of the LGA.
“At our February meeting the members voted to withdraw from the BAB and the tourism subcommittee because we did not believe it was in line with what [we needed],” Mr Leaney said.
“We’re going to go in our own direction and do our own thing.
“We have written a formal letter to the shire on that behalf.”
The group voted against the adoption of the policy when it was addressed by the BAB and Mr Leaney expressed concern the views of Walhalla had not been listened to.
“We think the policy has a lot of bold motherhood statements, but not a lot of detail,” he said.
“It seems if we bring x, y is presented.
“We are called to put a lot of effort into making submissions but that effort is ignored, so we decided that it’s just not worth it.”
Council staff stated in a report all industry groups had been consulted and the recommendations had been informed by that process.
Councillors adopted the plan, which will be used to guide Baw Baw’s tourism policy and identify “key action areas” in the sector, later in the meeting.
It will be reviewed by the BAB as required.
Mount Worth ward councillor Murray Cook, a council representative on the BAB, said the Walhalla & Mountain Rivers decision was disappointing and not the right approach to take to tourism planning and the sector needed to work together.
“I’m disappointed that Mountain Rivers is now picking up its board and going home,” he said.
“Working together is the only way forward [for tourism in Baw Baw].”
Walhalla has featured prominently in the council’s extensive Visit Baw Baw advertising campaign, which was introduced last year ahead of the new plan.
The branding and plan aim to make Baw Baw be seen as a region “widely known as a vibrant and attractive all-year tourism destination.”
Warragul ward councillor Joe Gauci said the consultation period meant the Visit Baw Baw branding strategy and the new plan could not be passed together last year.
“Last year they were able to come out with branding strategy,” he said.
“The tourism strategy was something that took a little bit longer.
“It’s a process that has been going on for years at the Baw Baw Shire Council.
“They (the BAB) formed a subcommittee to look at this further. The committee had a lot of options.
“It worked on it, came up with something that would suit our area as a whole, went back to the Business Advisory Board which approved it.”
Fellow Warragul ward councillor Mikaela Power said the plan also showed the council was listening.
“The aim of this is to guide the Baw Baw Shire Council’s efforts [in tourism],” Cr Power said.
“That’s what we’re aiming to do. It’s not perfect.
“I think we as council need to make sure we’re listening and hearing from the tourism sector in the shire.”
Councillors unanimously supported the adoption of the plan.
Tourism in Baw Baw created around 838 jobs in 2014 and contributed approximately $129.5 million to the region’s economy.
Council officers have identified visiting friends and family as the strongest market segment for Baw Baw.
The full Tourism Development Plan can be found in the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting. Download at bawbawshire.vic.gov.au.
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