Noosa’s biggest lobby group gets out its campaign sledgehammer

In what’s already being described as one of the biggest own-goals of the local election campaign, Tourism Noosa – the shire’s most powerful lobby group – has rolled up its sleeves and brought out the equivalent of a sledgehammer.

Or to put it more bluntly, the tourism marketing machine – funded to the tune of over $2.5 million of ratepayers’ money each year – has put a gun to the head of every candidate for Council.  

TN has described its upcoming members-only campaign event as a “candidates’ forum”, but it has evolved into something much more like heavy-handed lobbying of candidates.

For instance, TN has asked all candidates to respond to three questions in writing before they appear at their event.  The third of those questions has been described as “unethical”.

  1. What are your thoughts on tourism in Noosa? 
  1. Tell us about your ideas for how you will sustain Noosa’s visitor economy across the region. 
  1. Noosa Council currently contributes $2.5M annually to Tourism Noosa which in 2022-23 returned $1.7B overnight visitor expenditure into the local economy. Do you feel this represents a good return on the Council’s investment and why? 

Nothing subtle about question three.  It is effectively demanding that Councillors agree that the large ratepayer subsidy of over $2.5 million each year to prop up the Tourism marketer is great value and should be continued.  Councillors are being told to pre-commit in writing to the ongoing subsidy, or otherwise to explain themselves.

It’s not just the brazen nature of TN’s pressure on candidates that is being questioned this week, but the timing.  Our Council is part way through a delicate Destination Management process which, in simple terms, aims to find a balance in the way we manage over-tourism that swings back in favour of residents and their degraded, congested lifestyle.  

How much, and if, we subsidise TN to continue to spend millions marketing Noosa as a tourism brand is one of the central elements to the DM process that’s currently underway.

“It’s plainly unethical” – Hinterland residents’ groups raise the alarm

Two hinterland residents’ groups – Cooroy Area Residents Association (CARA) and Noosa Hinterland Residents Association (NHRA) have raised the alarm in a letter to the Noosa Council CEO Larry Sengstock.

The letter, signed by the Presidents of both groups, warned the Council CEO of the dangerous path Tourism Noosa – as a major beneficiary of Council funds – had embarked on with its loaded questions to candidates.  This is part of that letter:

We believe these questions to be of a political nature and it’s most inappropriate to ask them of councillor candidates, let alone provide their members with candidate answers. 

This is way beyond the remit of this council-funded industry association, since the Destination Management Plan consultation has finished, and council and consultants are in the process of creating a draft plan for public consultation, I believe Tourism Noosa should not preempt the outcome of the plan and pose these questions.

Any discussion of a potential political nature should not be on the agenda. Question 3 is plainly unethical.

We are assuming Tourism Noosa will be made aware of their obligations to the community to remain politically neutral, and especially request Council has input into any questions being asked. 

Rod Ritchie, President of CARA. Rob Neely, President of NHRA

As to any candidates who may be brave enough (or feeling pressured) to respond to the loaded TN questions, here’s more food for thought.

Any candidates who pre-commit in any detail to wholeheartedly supporting the TN lobby may find themselves open to a challenge as to whether they can take part in Council deliberations on the DM process later this year in an independent and objective way.

If they drink the Tourism Noosa “Kool Aid’ now, it could leave a nasty taste after their election to Council.

Local political observers may remember that Tourism Noosa’s last attempt at running interference through a candidates’ ‘forum’ was planned this time four years ago.  The outbreak of Covid caused that to be cancelled, effectively saving TN from itself.  Four years later, the group’s attempt at wedging candidates is exposed for all to see.


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    There are two options to the question on the $2.5m contribution by Noosa Council:

    1) Cut out the contribution and see how much tourism contributes to Noosa Council area in the following year.
    2) Increase the contribution to $10m, providing Tourism Noosa guarantees the same return as they claim for the current contribution, in the following year.

  2. Avatar

    I wonder if the veracity of this 2.5 billion dollars has been questioned or if there are Donald Trump clones at work. In any case the tourist industry here is mature and if it’s rolling in $ should be able to fund it’s own promotion when council services are a disgrace supposedly from lack of $. A grant of $1000 would deliver a better return on investment if $2.5 billion was the return. It wouldn’t make any difference? Also the cost to the environment and community of this industry in monetary terms needs to be evaluated and considered

  3. Avatar

    A return of $2.5 billion to the local economy in 12 months from an annual council outlay of $2.5 million sounds like a pretty good return on investment to me. And candidates are simply being asked their opinion, not ” pre-committing in writing to the ongoing subsidy”. Hardly unethical, a sledgehammer, or a “gun to the head of every candidate”.

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