The future of a Voluntary Visitor Fund to help the Byron Shire cover the impacts of its high visitation is hanging in the balance.
The future of a Voluntary Visitor Fund to help the Byron Shire cover the impacts of its high visitation is hanging in the balance.

Future of council’s visitor fund remains unclear

A VOLUNTARY Visitor Fund to help support Byron Shire Council could be discontinued.

But a decision on the fund has been deferred until March next year.

Mayor Simon Richardson first floated the concept of a Voluntary Visitor Fund as a notice of motion at the council’s November 21, 2013 meeting.

The idea was a bid to help the council to manage the financial impost of the large number of tourists who visit the shire each year.

In a report before the council’s meeting on Thursday, staff recommended they no longer pursue the VVF.

“From 2013 to 2016 a substantial amount of work was completed on the rebranded ‘Beautify Byron Fund’,” the report said.

“However, the program did not gain traction or support enough from the tourism industry to be financial.”

According to the staff report, only $16,627 was collected through the council’s holiday parks since 2013.

That sum is sitting in a reserve budget.

A 2018 attempt to reboot the VVF, launched by the mayor and involving industry leaders and key stakeholders,

After an August 2018 resolution by the council, a consultant was engaged and while more than 100 businesses were visited and presented the VVF concept, none signed up to the program.

At Thursday’s meeting, Cr Richardson was absent and deputy mayor Sarah Ndiaye called on her colleagues to defer action to end the initiative.

Cr Ndiaye said she’d been a party to conversations where the VVF “has been spoken about positively”.

“I don’t agree with some of the comments made in public access this morning … that (visitor economy businesses) don’t put back into our community,” Cr Ndiaye said.

“They do, in many ways.

“We can make a decision about it next year when we’ve got a better picture.”

Cr Paul Spooner opposed the deferral.

“Nobody from the industry was willing to take this on so we stepped into the void to get this started and it didn’t start,” Cr Spooner said.

“I don’t see anything that’s going to start this by March next year.

“If it can’t get off the ground in seven years, why’s it going to change in seven months?”

The motion to defer a decision passed.

Crs Spooner, Jan Hackett and Basil Cameron voted against it.

Along with Cr Richardson, Cr Jeanette Martin was also absent.

The council will continue to collect VVF contributions from its First Sun and Suffolk Park holiday parks.

The council voted to allocate those funds collected to implement the Byron Shire Sustainable Visitation Strategy, once it’s adopted.