Rate spend on tourism reviewed

KIAMA Council will undertake a "broad-brush review" of the municipality's tourism management, including how it spends the more than $300,000 worth of public funds it allocates to Kiama Tourism.

This came after the council decided not to proceed with an $8000 independent governance review of the Kiama Tourism board.

The council decided at its final 2013 meeting that a consultant would be brought in to assess Kiama Tourism, amid concerns about the organisation's board.

Kiama Tourism is a not-for-profit organisation and a stand-alone legal entity.

The council said it contributed more than $300,000 each year to Kiama Tourism through a tourism levy of $217,000, Holiday Parks contribution of $30,000 and a rental subsidy of $59,500.

It has three members on the board, including general manager Michael Forsyth.

Since elections in September, board members Sonya Slyer and Kiama councillor Mark Way have resigned.

The review was to be funded by Kiama Council through "tourism-related funds".

The council met in a confidential session last Tuesday night to consider legal advice regarding the proposed review.

Mayor Brian Petschler said the council resolved to advise the tourism board it could conduct its own review - which the council would be interested in seeing - but the council would also conduct a separate review of how it spent the money.

Cr Petschler said it was time to re-evaluate.

He said it would be a broad-brush review, looking at options, strategies and structures.

"We will be looking at long-term options and structures, given the dynamic nature of the tourism industry and the way in which tourism has changed," he said.

"This is a blank canvas.

"We're not starting with any preconceived ideas.

"We want a consultant to look at tourism in the area, as we want to ensure we get maximum value for the money we put into tourism.

"In the past 12 months or so, some issues have arisen.

"We're not looking back, we're looking forward . . . it's a matter of drawing a line and looking forward to ensure we have the best value for a dollar."

Cr Petschler said Kiama Tourism would be invited to make a submission to the review, which he hoped would be completed by September.

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

A Kiama Tourism spokesperson said the organisation welcomed the review.

"Kiama Tourism will participate in the strategic review to be undertaken by an independent consultant, and will provide information to assist in this process which has a tentative completion date of September 2014," the spokesperson said.

"Kiama Tourism also acknowledges Kiama Council's resolution at the same meeting not to proceed with any direct involvement in the governance review of the organisation's board.

"Kiama Tourism will continue to conduct and fund this review, commencing immediately, informing Kiama Council of its outcomes when they are available."

Last Monday, former board member Sonya Slyer addressed the council, expressing concerns with governance issues surrounding the tourism board.

Ms Slyer said she commented more as a tourism member and ratepayer, rather than an ex-director of Kiama Tourism.

"I resigned purely because I felt that there is a lack of governance from the chair [Brian Longbottom] and the continuing involvement, despite his declared conflict of interest with [Kiama Visitors] Centre management and staff, and the uncompromising, untenable situation that had evolved between board members as a result thereof has created many, many bad feelings and bad blood," she said.

Ms Slyer, a Kiama business owner of 10 years, said she felt she no longer had the support of tourism, despite being a paid member.

While Kiama Tourism would not respond to Ms Slyer's criticisms, the Kiama Independent it's understood it has rejected the allegations as inaccurate and unfounded.

It is understood it regards the declared conflicts of interest, including those involving Mr Longbottom, as having been dealt with in a serious manner and Mr Longbottom ceased to be involved when there was a potential conflict of interest.

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