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Debate over tourism dollars

Opinion

Debate over tourism dollars

Bill Darby says political point scoring and inflated egos are hampering the effective promotion of tourism on the Sunshine Coast.

The announcements in the recent Federal Budget brought mixed reviews. The mayor was clearly dissatisfied with the announcements made by Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison and he was quick to point the finger. In a nutshell, promises fell short of the council’s expectations for infrastructure expenditure – $530 million in prioritised funding for the Bruce Highway wasn’t good enough and the $250,000 study into an undersea cable was again, too little too late.

On the other hand, our parliamentarians Ted O’Brien and Andrew Wallace were rapt with the Budget outcome.

As a result of public criticism from the mayor, the reactions from our local pollies confirm the relationship is deteriorating.

Collaboration and teamwork has made way for political point scoring and relationships seem to be sinking to their lowest ebb.

Does anyone believe our MPs sit on their backsides all day? Of course not. Frankly, they work harder and longer hours than most of us. As lowly backbenchers they have very little say on the Budget, yet they juggle competing priorities and lobby in Canberra to achieve the best outcomes they can.

A systemic problem in our region is that local political egos have stripped away any semblance of humility and good grace. The self-congratulatory rhetoric from the council is getting tiring and its criticism of the state and federal government is getting worse.

For the record, generally speaking our Sunshine Coast councillors and council staff do a great job. Unlike the countless volunteers out there, it’s also a job they get very well paid to do. Just saying.

Equally disappointing was advice I received this week that the council is working to undermine the independence of our tourism body, Visit Sunshine Coast (VSC). The region’s official tourism organisation receives most of its funding from a tourism levy raised through local rates. A board was elected in 2012 to independently govern VSC and grow our regional tourism economy, but it appears the council is pulling all the strings.

Controversy has surrounded VSC since Noosa gained its independence. While funding for VSC comes almost exclusively from the Sunshine Coast, VSC promotes Noosa and Gympie Shires with gusto. Bringing further suspicion to the effectiveness of VSC is its reluctance to publish comparable tourism performance statistics for sub-regional areas such as Coolum, Mooloolaba and Caloundra. While Noosa and Gympie crow about their unprecedented growth, other tourism hubs on the Sunshine Coast are left guessing.

I want to live in a community that works together to be a better place. It concerns me that with our inherent parochialism and lack of transparency, we have a long way to go. At the end of the day, we are all very small fish in a very big pond. The sooner some of our public servants realise that, the better.

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Bill Darby is a businessman and general manager of Caloundra’s Rumba Beach Resort. He has an extensive career in the tourism industry. For more visit billdarby.com.au.

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