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Byron Shire
January 28, 2021

Editorial – Tourism sector unsupportive of Mayor’s visitor fund

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Hans Lovejoy, editor

A Voluntary Visitor Fund (VVF) to entice the tourism sector to contribute funds to Council appears to have been a failure, according to a staff report in the June 25 Council agenda.

Spearheaded by Greens mayor Simon Richardson, the fund was adopted at the November 2013 meeting, says the report. A trial voluntary visitor contribution fund at the First Sun and Suffolk Park caravan parks, began in July, 2014.

Called the Beautify Byron Fund, its aim was ‘to provide a prioritised list of projects where the funds raised could be spent’. Other Byron Bay businesses were also encouraged take part in the fund, which would see Council be the governing body to manage the fund.

The staff report reads, ‘From 2013 to 2016 a substantial amount of work was completed on the rebranded ‘Beautify Byron Fund’. However, the program did not gain traction or enough support from the tourism industry to be financial. 

Staff say, over that time, $16,627 was collected through Council’s holiday parks.

While the mayor initiated a follow up forum in 2018 ‘with industry leaders and key stakeholders to discuss a ‘reboot’ of the Voluntary Visitor Fund’, that too, was unsuccessful.

A motion that year to progress the fund involved a consultant for three months, whose job it was to sign up businesses.

Staff wrote, ‘Owing to the lack of industry support, a luncheon was organised with five key industry leaders, the Mayor, Director of Sustainable Environment and Economy and the Tourism Officer to stimulate discussion and interest. The intent of the meeting was to invite these industry leaders to commit to the VVF and take a leadership role with industry, and encourage other businesses to be part of the program. At the meeting, all attendees agreed and pledged their support to a VVF; however, shortly after the meeting four of the businesses withdrew their support’.

So what happens from here? Despite staff recommending that councillors ‘No longer pursue a Voluntary Visitor Fund’, a councillor majority at the June 25 meeting voted to ‘defer a decision on the Voluntary Visitor Fund, until a report is presented to a Council meeting in March 2021’.

Crs Spooner, Hackett, and Cameron voted against the motion.

Other council meeting outcomes

Other decisions were made at the June 25 meeting:

A Sustainable Community Markets policy was adopted after no submissions were received. A Public Art Annual Small Grants Program was also adopted, along with the Biodiversity Conservation Strategy 2020-2030 and an Open Spaces Asset Management Plan. Stage one of the Cape Byron to South Golden Beach Scoping Study was adopted.

A Sustainable Catering Policy will go on exhibition, as well as the draft Operational Plan 2020/21 and a Draft Policy [for] Building in the Vicinity of Underground Infrastructure 2020.

And finally, but not only, a local event recovery fund will be established for events, using event sponsorship funds not required owing to COVID-19. Want more? Surely you do. It’s all on Byron Shire Council’s website.

News tips are welcome: [email protected]

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  1. Why would the tourism sector contribute to a fund while the council squanders a fortune on chasing ridiculous pipe dreams like resurrecting a pointless and unaffordable railway?

    The council should stop standing in the way of the only tourism project that really would make a massive difference in the region, especially for the hinterland villages, the Northern Rivers Rail Trail. The tourism sector, businesses both large and small as well as the general public generously contribute to these facilities at many other locations throughout the world.

    Here we have the potential to have one of the best and most popular rail trails, not only in Australia but the whole world,

  2. Who were the “five key industry leaders” and which of them pulled out after agreeing to this? What were their reasons? I think the community should know who’s making decisions for them.

  3. Greg,
    It is all too obvious that the “tourism sector ” are nothing but a self-seeking bunch of bloodsuckers, who are incapable of contributing to even their own welfare but more than happy to dismantle serious infrastructure that has been constructed and paid for by our foresighted antecedents, in order to construct a frivolous horsey/bike track that benefits no-one . As has been made obvious by the Covid virus, while the whole tourism rip-off industry is transient, optional and unnecessary the transport infrastructure has a real benefit now and in the future.
    Bring back the trains ! G”)

  4. Ken. In fact the COVID crisis makes the Rail Trail more relevant than ever for many good reasons. Firstly it provides a practical means of transport with thorough isolation that also affords numerous other positive health outcomes. Electric bicycles make it viable for virtually everyone. Far better than being trapped on trains, buses and the multiple queues waiting for connecting services, ensuring that passengers from many different places are thoroughly mixed in close proximity.

    Secondly, with international travel off the menu for who knows how long, domestic tourism on foot or cycle, again with far reduced threat of contracting COVID, is a very attractive concept. Bicycle transport is undergoing a massive renaissance. Bicycle shops can’t keep up with the demand.

    Our foresighted antecedents looked ahead for many decades but after a century, the old railway has seen out the purpose they envisaged. It has been well established that it does not and cannot meet our 21st century transport needs.

    There is negligible benefit in an old railway that doesn’t go near where the vast majority of the people in the region live, especially those without cars, nor anywhere near where most of them need to travel. Nowhere near any hospitals or universities and very few work places. That anyone believes spending hundreds of millions of dollars to resurrect this decrepit anachronism is truly bizarre. Moreover, it isn’t going to happen because nobody, government or private enterprise, is going to spend a fortune to create an ongoing financial nightmare.

    Finally you should realise that, far from being a transient, optional industry, tourism is the lifeblood of this region. The Northern Rivers Rail Trail has the potential to rapidly become one of the most popular trails in the world. Moreover, instead of overloading Byron Bay, it will bring real sustainable prosperity to the hinterland towns and villages, just as trails have done all around the world.


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