August 19, 2020
South Burnett Regional Council will fund a local tourism association for six months, with the possibility of future support if the group meets agreed performance targets.
On Wednesday, Councillors voted unanimously to give $70,000 to Visit South Burnett (VSB) in a half-year funding arrangement that will cover from September to February.
The money is half the annual commitment the Local Tourism Organisation had been seeking, and will be used for destination marketing and the employment of a full-time Tourism Officer.
Councillors also voted to give VSB office space in one of the region’s Visitor Information Centres but declined a request to supply a Council-owned vehicle.
“There simply aren’t any vehicles available,” CEO Mark Pitt told the meeting.
The funding decision was welcomed on Wednesday afternoon by VSB president Jason Kinsella.
“We have been in discussions about this for a long time, and we sincerely welcome Council’s support for tourism,” Jason said.
“This year – with the pandemic hitting tourism businesses especially hard – we believe it’s critical the South Burnett gets out and promotes itself as strongly as we can.
“Tourism can create lots of jobs very quickly, and our region is going to need as many of these as possible when the economy restarts.”
Wednesday’s vote caps years of negotiations between VSB and Council which began in 2017 soon after the SBRC cancelled its membership of the Southern Queensland Country Regional Tourism Organisation.
At that time, Councillors felt the Toowoomba-based group was delivering little value for the South Burnett’s $60,000 annual membership dues.
However, since the former South Burnett Tourism Association had dissolved a year earlier, Council had no option except to carry out all tourism promotion activities itself.
It passed the task to its Economic Development Department and Tourism Officer, and they carried on activities under the “Discover South Burnett” brand until the departure of both staff earlier this year.
Mayor Brett Otto told southburnett.com.au Council had taken the decision not to readvertise the two jobs when they became vacant as part of economy measures.
So while the positions still exist in the SBRC’s organisational chart, they will remain empty for the foreseeable future.
VSB, meanwhile, incorporated as a not-for-profit community group late last year and held its official launch in February.
Since then, its membership has quickly risen from a founding group of six to more than 82.
In July, at meetings held in Yarraman and Wondai, VSB pointed to the need for Council support.
It said it would be unable to seek tourism funding from either the State or Federal Government if Council did not show its own support.
It sought $140,000 from Council, proposing to spend $80,000 to hire a Tourism Officer and the balance on destination marketing (ie. marketing that sells the South Burnett as a desirable place to visit).
On Wednesday, Cr Kirstie Schumacher said she wanted to propose Council formally recognise VSB as the SBRC’s tourism organisation partner.
However, given that funds were tight, she suggested Council agree to half VSB’s funding request and attach a range of conditions that would help ensure the money was appropriately spent in the way both groups intended.
If VSB carried out their work effectively, they could reapproach Council in February 2021 to have the initial funding extended.
Councillors agreed, and after some tweaks to a long set of conditions proposed by Cr Schumacher, approved the deal unanimously.
Cr Gavin Jones said he only had one major reservation, which that money was tight this year due to the decision to introduce a “zero rate rise” Budget.
However, he was willing to go along with his fellow Councillors in the hope conditions might improve in the coming six months.