The Moira Shire Council draft Visitor Services Strategy has ruffled feathers in other parts of the shire with a petition of protest from the Cobram community tabled at last week’s ordinary meeting.
While the draft plan favours the Yarrawonga Visitor Information Centre (VIC), in terms of retaining its accreditation and hours of operation, there is no recommendation for the future of the Cobram Visitor Information Centre or the centre in Numurkah.
The Barmah Forest Heritage and Education Centre in Nathalia will be operated as a non-accredited Visitor Information Centre under the plan, allowing for greater flexibility in operating hours.
None of the five recommendations in the draft plan include any mention of the Cobram and Numurkah VICs, leading to speculation they might be closed if the strategy is adopted.
The 2017-2019 Moira Shire Visitor Services Strategy was scheduled to be open for public feedback until August 1.
Cr Ed Cox tabled a petition at the July 26 Moira Shire Council meeting from a group of Cobram residents.
The petition stated, “A proposal has been made to close down the Cobram-Barooga Visitor Information Centre. We believe that the closure of our centre will have a disastrous effect on the future of Cobram, Barooga and our surrounding towns”.
“This will affect many areas of our community including tourism and local businesses, which in turn will affect our whole town.
“We object to the proposal by the Moira Shire to close the Cobram-Barooga Visitor Information Centre.”
In a cover letter included with the petition, writer Cath Noonan said after she had posted on social media expressing her concern about the “suggestion” that the Cobram Visitor Centre will be closed, “I received many messages urging me to start up a petition for concerned citizens to sign. Many of our past residents also wanted to sign, however I have not had time to organise an online petition”.
Ms Noonan said that in just three days of collecting signatures she had 344 people sign the petition.
After the petition was tabled at the meeting, Cr Marie Martin moved a motion to have the draft Visitor Services Strategy consultation period extended to September 1 to provide more time for community feedback.
The motion was seconded by Cr Wendy Buck and carried unanimously.
Outside the future operation of shire area Visitor Information Centres, other recommendations in strategy call for; the development of a mobile, pop-up Visitor Information Centre which can be stand, van or caravan transported to an event or key attraction, delivering a Visiting Friends and Relatives Campaign featuring local tourism businesses and targeting local residents to be ambassadors for their own region and accrediting businesses as Visitor Information Points (VIPs) with brochure displays and ongoing visitor information training.