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.