Council hits back at tourism takeover cost claim
UPDATE: ROCKHAMPTON REGIONAL COUNCIL SAY THEY WILL WORK WITH CAP ENTERPRISE
ROCKHAMPTON Regional Council has repeatedly engaged with Capricorn Enterprise about the transition of management for the Visitor Information Centre.
Council's general manager of Regional Development and Aviation Scott Waters said had discussed the transition requirements with CEO Mary Carroll.
"It has been requested by the chief executive officer of Capricorn Enterprise to commence this transition earlier than the notified date of which Council will accommodate," he said.
"The Council is highly aware of the importance of services provided for the centre and will continue a business as usual approach while a comprehensive review is undertaken to ensure that industry best standard is being delivered taking into account the ever changing nature of the tourism industry and the provision of visitor services.
"Council currently provides visitor and volunteer services across a number of locations and sees the future inclusion of the Spire Visitor Information Centre as a natural extension of current services provided.
"Council delivering economic development for the region on an in house basis as already demonstrated a high level of success and this will now be the case for tourism as a more robust and industry development focus is delivered.
"Council already shoulders a high degree of cost in relation to the Spire Visitor Information Centre and will continue to deliver services within the allocated budget and in line with numerous local governments across Queensland, additional costs as indicated by the chief executive officer of Capricorn Enterprise do not take into account the large internal resources already in place through current council visitor and volunteer activity."
Council will continue to work with Capricorn Enterprise during the transition.
COUNCIL'S TOURISM TAKEOVER COMES AT A HEAVY COST: MARY CARROLL
INITIAL REPORT: THE Spire has become the latest conquest in council's growing tourism portfolio, but Capricorn Enterprise CEO Mary Carroll claims it will come at four times the cost to ratepayers.
Ms Carroll said Capricorn Enterprise had run the Visitor Information Centre on Gladstone Rd for three decades at less than $100,000 per annum, but the Rockhampton Regional Council will manage the facility by the end of March.
Councillors unanimously voted to terminate their $105,000 contribution to the economic development organisation in December last year; information on the motivation behind the move was not provided at the time, but Mayor Margaret Strelow said council would assume a "greater role in tourism".
Yesterday, Ms Carroll said the RRC had confirmed in writing they would meet contractual arrangements with members and stakeholders on brochure displays and advertising in and around the building until June 30.
But she said uncertainty surrounded the continuation of VIC accreditation, supervisor and volunteer roles, future plans for brochure stock, bookings, product training and statistical records and hoped council would fully articulate the implications of the transition on rate payers.
Ms Carroll said Capricorn Enterprise had offered to manage The Spire post July 1 at its own cost, but council declined.
"It is not unusual for Local Government Authorities to manage Visitor Information Centres, albeit costing four times as much, but the expectation is that council will ensure statistical data is passed onto us and Visit Queensland in regards to our regional role on behalf of the State government," Ms Carroll said.
"Our wonderful volunteers are very sad that Capricorn Enterprise will no longer look after them (in a few weeks time) and hope that they will not lose their VIC Supervisor, Michelle Pownall, who has supported them for seven years now. "
Ms Carroll explained the service was "not just about tourism product", and was proud of their efforts on the "smell of an oily rag".
"It is business as usual for us - we are a strong organisation with the respect of our 400 business members and industry stakeholders, local, state, federal governments and organisations around the state," she said.
"Operating Visitor Information Centres is not just about tourism product - it is a whole raft of queries from mechanical repairs, vets, medical assistance, wildlife carers and supermarkets, so we have really been offering a Community Service Obligation (CSO) on behalf of Council for less than $100,000 a year, as well as Destination Marketing.
"Whilst our overall operating budget is reduced by $100,000 (RRC's contribution for the past three years), our operating expenses will also be reduced."
Reflecting on the Capricorn Enterprise's achievements, Ms Carroll highlighted the $300,000 tourism signage project completed two years ago with the Department of Transport and Main Roads which promoted the Rockhampton Zoo/Botanic Gardens, Mount Archer National Park, Mout Morgan, The Caves, Byfield National Park and the Keppels on the Bruce Hwy.
"Our continued mantra is that collaboration is key - we have made our small budget stretch five-fold because, just like small business, our budget has a limit," she said.
"Ratepayers do need to be aware that it will cost council at least four times more to deliver what we have been delivering and achieving, both at the Visitor Information Centre and in Destination Marketing."
Capricorn Enterprise and its predecessor Organisation, Capricorn Tourism held a 10-year lease from February 1, 2003 to January 31, 2013 paying about $20,000 per annum to the RRC.
Upon expiry of that lease, after a number of requests from Capricorn Enterprise to enter into a new lease, RRC offered a month-by-month lease from February 2013.
Due to significant funding cuts by RRC to Capricorn Enterprise at the time, RRC agreed to waiver our rental fee at The Spire VIC from July 2013 onwards on a month-by-month lease arrangement to the present time.
The Rockhampton Regional Council have been contacted for comment.