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Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

The tourism of Tenterfield is now in the hands of the local business chamber, as Tenterfield Shire Council continues its push to recover costs and become financially sustainable.

Tenterfield Chamber of Tourism, Industry and Business says it’s a good and logical fit.

“We work with the council, and we are very familiar with the business and on our board, we have the legal, financial areas covered and a lot of board members have decades of experience running successful businesses and events, so I think there is nothing better than to have it with the chamber,” said Kat Davis, Board member for Tenterfield Chamber of Tourism, Industry and Business.

“As is in our title, Chamber of Tourism, Industry and Business, it makes sense.”

As of September 1st, Tenterfield Shire Council will cease all operations of tourism, including the Visitor Information Centre, in a disappointing but necessary move.

“Unfortunately, the hope we had for financial improvements this year through a culmination of avenues, has not come to fruition,” said Bronwyn Petrie, Mayor Tenterfield Shire Council.

“An increase in financial assistance from the Government that had been promised, didn’t happen, also the State Government has withdrawn the emergency services levy subsidy, and our application for a rate increase was partially accepted, and we are still getting increased costs on assets.”

“Although we have been making savings and efficiencies, we need to make more to be financially stable, that includes further cost reductions and removing services that aren’t absolutely core to Council’s operations.”

The benefits of operating through an organisation, like a business chamber, opens further opportunities to tap into funding grants.

“The chamber isn’t constrained like local government is and we are providing the chamber with funds for their marketing and their set up.”

Tenterfield Shire Council has offered $200,000 over three years:

· $100,00 in the first year for setup costs and operations

· $50,00 for the second and third years for maintenance

Landing in the hands of community members, Council says it has every confidence in the local chamber.

“Thankfully our chamber is going to step up and take over that service, and they have a lot of talented people that will take this and show improvements,” said Mayor Petrie.

The future of Tourism

Tenterfield Chamber of Tourism, Industry and Business recognises the importance of their new role in boosting the town’s economy.

“Tourism is very important and with the ups and down of industry and cattle, the town then turns to tourism in accommodation, hospitality, retail, and those sorts of thing,” said Ms Davis.

“They bring people and money into town to support our businesses and our people.”

Chamber is currently going through applications from residents interested in joining a sub-committee to help plan and drive the future tourism of Tenterfield.

“We want a group of people who are in all industries, and we want people who are in accommodation, in events, in hospitality to form this group and make a plan moving forward,” said Ms Davis.

“We are in discussions with council as to what will happen with that, and once this group is formed then we can start to put some plans in place to what we do.”

Those invited to the first sub-committee meeting will meet on Wednesday 16th August at the Tenterfield Golf Club, in a quick turnaround to try and get a message out as soon as possible to the public.

“We are very thankful for the community’s patience and understanding, and we will hopefully bring some more news your way soon.”

“We want to give the community some certainty and when we have that they will hear from us,” said Ms Davis.

History has shown the community has run tourism operations before, and now they have the chance to do it again.

“A lot of communities and chambers run their own tourism sector for their shire.”

“If it is community run, people can’t be passengers, they need to put their hand up and get involved in whatever way they can.”

What about the Visitor Information Centre?

Residents have raised questions over the future of the Visitor Information Centre listed for sale by the Council last month.

Together, Council and the Chamber are seeking an alternative location of operation.

“The high cost to Council is having staff in these places and under our risk management, wherever we have volunteers we also have to have paid staff,” said Mayor Petrie.

“It wasn’t viable.”

“Of the visitors in our shire, the Visitor Center gets 10 per cent of them through the door and those people like face-to-face contact, they pick up maps and brochures and hopefully they stay a little longer.”

“But tourism doesn’t end in Tenterfield Shire because of the closure of the Visitor Information Centre,” she said.

What about Council’s Other Assets?

The big question coming from the community is, what is next? What is the next asset to go on Council’s watch list?

The museum and theatre inside the Sir Henry Parkes building closed last week as Council does a complete over-haul.

“We have to look at all of our assets that are under-utilised, underperforming or that are not part of our core requirement,” said Mayor Petrie.

“We have redone a lease with Tenterfield Total Care – they have a long-term lease, with Sir Henry Parks school of arts; the library will open after some grant funded refurbishment, the café will continue there, but the museum and theatre, because we have staff in there, that’s a high cost, so it closed.”

“We are very hopefully the National Trust will put in place their usual volunteer model they have in their other building, so we are waiting for a decision,” she said.

“We have other buildings and pieces of land, and these will all be considered in due course.”

While costly, Tenterfield Shire Council is trying to retain control of the local pool.

“The pool does cost a lot of money, but we are trying to retain the pool as it is important our kids don’t drown,” said Mayor Petrie.

“The pool has a high visitation level and its good for exercise and social enjoyment, and it is essential kids learn to swim.”

Tenterfield Shire Council says it is working hard to build a sustainable future, but tough decisions need to be made.

“People didn’t want the rates to rise but anytime we go to improve our budget by selling things, they want to keep that too,” said Mayor Petrie.

“The message to the community is you can’t have everything.”

“As much as we would like to, we can’t, and Council has to make these incredibly tough choices.”

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