Putting the ‘management’ into our Destination Management Plan

It’s become a common refrain as you walk around Noosa; here comes another consultation -for another plan, more well-meaning words…but if you want to see action that benefits our community – don’t hold your breath.

Councillors pass motions indicating serious commitment which then seems to be ignored. The recent Encroachment Policy is a good example.

Is the ‘Destination Management Plan’ (DMP) heading in the same direction given its track record to date?

Why does the community fear that Tourism Noosa has hijacked the process?

The Council has already approved bi-annual funding for Tourism Noosa and the Tourism Noosa Strategy for another two years before the DMP is completed.

Why should Council ratepayers fund “one of Queensland’s strongest tourism membership organisations, with 586 members in 2022-23”? Does the community benefit, or mainly the members? 

Noosa Council’s consultation for its new Corporate Plan in 2023 revealed it should focus on traffic management and transport first, the natural environment and environmental sustainability second and third and the improvement of facilities fifth.

Tourism Management was rated tenth, so why did Council focus on a Destination Management Plan for tourism? The 2017 Transport Strategy is still not implemented, despite the $5-million levy paid by ratepayers.

Funding by Noosa Council of Tourism Noosa of $2.6m a year from ratepayers, gives it a significant organisation and a voice to lobby Council. 

Residents’ associations on the other hand are self-funded and volunteer. Worse still, some Councillors do not want other Councillors to represent the interests of their local community or community organisations and the conflict of interest process has been used against residents’ interests.

At the last count there were some 36 plans and strategies and 73 policies on the Council books. Implementation is what is lacking.

It is frustrating for residents that, after Council approves plans, they have to await funding. Further delays follow, after funding, while staff are recruited and trained and perhaps equipment ordered and commissioned. Perhaps if Council developed key performance indicators at the time of developing these plans, it could eliminate some of these frustrations.

Measuring Noosa Council performance
The Queensland Auditor General has identified seven better practice principles for performance review as:

1. Clear purpose and focus.
2. Active executive involvement.
3. Responsibility and accountability assigned.
4. Relevant and robust performance information.
5. Coordinated and documented by a dedicated team.
6. Balanced discussion at review sessions.
7. Persistent follow up process.

Over many years of working with Council staff, there has been an observable decline in staff’s understanding of what Council is trying to achieve. Lately, a “silo mentality” has frequently been encountered which allows buck passing from one department to another and back again. 

Staff have changed so often of late that Council has lost much of its ‘corporate memory’ and there seems to be limited effective executive involvement. Residents refer to many staff as “desk jockeys”.

Despite Council purportedly wanting to consult with the community, over the last six months, letters from community organisations have frequently not received a substantive reply. If volunteer community groups feel ignored and frustrated, what hope is there for individual residents?

The Snap, Send Solve app sometimes achieves results but the reporting back is unsatisfactory as it does not advise what has been done other than the case has been ‘closed’, often without action.

While a lot of time and effort is going into the DMP process, the community is experiencing the feeling of déjà vu and wondering if this plan will join the rest awaiting serious commitment to implementation and also failing because of effective monitoring of performance.

Our long-suffering community is required to participate to achieve the best possible outcome and then to withhold its feelings of apprehension. We live in hope but are uninformed of what others have said by way of submissions and have doubts about who is controlling the outcome.

Do residents console themselves with an assumption that, based on precedent, little will change?

If implemented, monitoring performance should show a process of continuous improvement. Performance measures should not be set-and-forget but require continuous monitoring and improvement to inform and drive decision-making about community requirements.

Councillors and residents could benefit from the adoption and implementation of the Auditor-General’s principles by Noosa Council.

Regenerative Tourism will require a behavioural change. We need to encourage both residents and visitors who share our values and will strive to protect and improve this place we love. The task of drafting a Noosa DMP incorporating the regenerative tourism concept will not be easy but it needs to consider the needs of residents to be successful. 

Then the next task will be implementation – which will be a greater challenge for a Noosa Council which clearly needs to raise its game.


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