Kiama Tourism spending to be scrutinised

Kiama Municipal Council will review how it spends more than $300,000 worth of public money it now allocates to Kiama Tourism.

The council will also suspend its three delegates from the Kiama Tourism board while the strategic review takes place.

The move comes after the council opted not to proceed with an $8000 independent governance review of the Kiama Tourism board, which had been offered by the council in light of ‘‘ongoing problems’’ the board appeared to be having.

Kiama council contributes just over $300,000 through a tourism levy of $217,000, holiday parks allocation of $30,000 and a rental subsidy of $59,500.

Kiama council met behind closed doors on Tuesday night to consider legal advice it had received regarding the proposed review.

Mayor Brian Petschler said the council resolved to advise the tourism board it could conduct its own review – the results of which the council would be interested in seeing – but, at the same time, the council would be conducting a separate review of how it spent the public money.

‘‘Tourism is a very important industry in Kiama,’’ he said.

‘‘We need to look at its development and its promotion and we also need to look at the options and structures that will be best in place to service that.

‘‘I have supported the current model up until now, but I think, after nearly 30 years, it is time to have a good look at things.

‘‘In that time, there have been many changes in the way tourism is funded and changes to the dynamics of the industry...we want to ensure we are getting the best bang for our buck.’’

Cr Petschler said all options were on the table – including the current model – and the structures relating to tourism at other councils would be examined.

‘‘Kiama Tourism will be invited to make a submission to the review, which we hope will be completed by September.’’ 

Cr Petschler  said the council’s three delegates to the 12-member tourism board would be suspended to avoid conflicts of interest.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, former board member Sonya Slyer addressed the council, expressing her concerns with governance issues surrounding the Kiama Tourism board.

‘‘I have come here to make comment more as a tourism member and a ratepayer, rather than an ex-director of Kiama Tourism,’’ she said.

Ms Slyer said she resigned because she felt there was a lack of governance from the chairman Brian Longbottom.

She said Mr Longbottom’s continued involvement with Kiama Visitors Centre management, despite his declared conflict of interest, and the ‘‘uncompromising, untenable situation that evolved between board members as a result’’ had ‘‘created many, many bad feelings and bad blood’’.

‘‘I’ve been here 16 years and had a very successful business for 10 years; I am involved with a lot of the community and my business supports it.

‘‘I no longer feel I have the support of Kiama Tourism, even though I am a fully paid up member.

 ‘‘...I feel that some businesses have been affected.’’

When contacted yesterday, Mr Longbottom declined to comment on the council resolution, as he had yet to see it in writing.

He declined to comment on Ms Slyer’s comments, as he said he was waiting to hear back from Kiama Tourism staff who were attending the meeting when the comments were made.