THE chairman of Kiama Tourism has emphasised the industry being part of the fabric of the community, and said it was business as usual while Kiama Council reviews how it spends funding allocated to the organisation.
The current funding structure between council and Kiama Tourism has been in place for more than 25 years.
In March, council resolved to undertake a full strategic review of the funding for tourism, provided by council using an independent external consultant.
The review came as a result of concerns regarding alleged ‘‘ongoing problems’’ with Kiama Tourism’s board.
Kiama Tourism is a not-for-profit organisation and a stand-alone legal entity.
In 2013/14, council provided Kiama Tourism with direct funding of $306,500.
In August, Kiama councillors deferred a decision on how to spend the funds, pending talks with Kiama Tourism and councillor workshops.
The independent report by Jenny Rand and Associates concluded that ‘‘retaining the status quo’’ was not an option for council.
Instead, three options have been proposed.
One is to formalise the existing funding arrangement with Kiama Tourism and put in place a performance-based funding agreement.
The second is to establish an in-house tourism unit at the council to undertake the activities currently being undertaken by Kiama Tourism, as well as provide tourism input for other council functions and activities.
A third option is to split the functions between council and Kiama Tourism.
Kiama Tourism chairman Brian Longbottom said it was ‘‘business as usual’’ as the funding review takes place.
‘‘Tourists do not stop coming here while we work through this process and our entire team remains committed to continuing to exceed the expectations of everyone who visits our part of the world,’’ he said.
Mr Longbottom said tourism was a part of the fabric of the community, with tangible and non-tangible benefits.
‘‘The Kiama Tourism Board operates well and any inefficiencies were dealt with earlier in the year.
‘‘We have met with Kiama Council about the future of tourism funding in the Kiama LGA and submitted documents for consideration.
‘‘This includes highlighting a number of inaccuracies that were contained in the independent consultant report.’’
Mr Longbottom said he didn’t feel the report was as thorough as he would have expected.
‘‘(For example) the report mentioned that we didn’t have a sponsorship policy - we’ve had one for six to eight years,’’ he said.
Mr Longbottom said much has changed since the current arrangement was established 25 years ago, and therefore processes and protocols needed to be updated to reflect the environment in which they now operate.
‘‘The Kiama Tourism Board joins me in supporting a structured arrangement with appropriate levels of reporting between council and Kiama Tourism.
‘‘Our main focus is the tourists who come to this town.
‘‘We’re also on a membership drive, and are up on memberships compared to last year.’’
Last month, Kiama Mayor Brian Petschler said the matter was to be discussed further.
‘‘We want to deal with it as quickly as we can, but, because it’s a fairly complex issue, we want to make sure we’ve addressed all the issues that could be involved.
‘‘(The report) looked at a range of issues, and also indicated that it was probably opportune to have a review, given the way local government and tourist development has headed in the past 20 years.’’