Tourism Noosa refuses to abandon its direct lobbying of candidates

Just how much say in the political behaviour of Tourism Noosa does our Council get for its massive subsidy of $2.5 million dollars a year?  It appears the answer is – not much, if any.

Last week we reported on our biggest lobby group and its direct political intervention in the Noosa election campaign by staging a candidates’ forum and demanding prospective Councillors answer some very loaded questions first.

This was question 3.

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? 

After scathing criticism from two Hinterland residents’ groups that this was “unethical” lobbying of candidates, Noosa Council’s CEO has reportedly requested that TN “tone it down a bit”, but our Tourism marketing and lobby group is well known as a law-unto-itself, and its modified approach has barely shifted.

The questions to candidates remain highly loaded…implying that Council’s huge subsidy to TN is value for money and asking candidates to agree with this proposition. This is the slightly altered version.

Noosa Council currently contributes $2.5M annually to Tourism Noosa which in 2022-23 returned $1.7B overnight visitor expenditure into the local economy. What are your thoughts on this?

And another, equally loaded question implies it is Council’s job to ‘sustain Noosa’s visitor economy”, which could be news to many ratepayers.

Tell us about your ideas for how you will sustain Noosa’s visitor economy across the region.

We may never know exactly what our Council CEO has told Tourism Noosa, but the clear evidence is that they intend to continue lobbying hard for their $2.5 million, and tightening the screws on every council candidate to agree.

The Presidents of two hinterland residents’ groups – Cooroy Area Residents Association (CARA) and Noosa Hinterland Residents Association (NHRA) have written a further letter to the Council CEO suggesting the loaded nature of the TN questions could come back to haunt Councillors later as they discuss the Destination Management process.

Given Tourism Noosa’s intention to disseminate candidates’ written responses “exactly as they are provided to us by you, to our members post the forum,” we harbour concerns that these responses may predispose individual councillors, thereby excluding them from crucial decision-making processes concerning tourism policy, funding for tourism projects, and the renewal of Tourism Noosa’s funding.

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

The Tourism Noosa event lobbying candidates should be ‘called off’

Both hinterland groups, CARA and NHRA, have called for common sense to prevail, and for the Tourism Noosa event to be called off.

As we have previously highlighted, we trust that Tourism Noosa will be cognizant of its obligations to the community and refrain from instigating unnecessary COI (conflict of interest) predicaments during the tenure of the next council. Such actions are imperative for upholding principles of good governance.

We strongly advocate against proceeding with the Meet the Candidates meeting under the current parameters. 

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

Tourism Noosa is doubling down on its campaign, compiling the responses by candidates.  You can read them in full here.

Perhaps the most detailed, analytical and impressive response came from Nicola Wilson, a candidate with a strong background in financial analysis for big corporations.

Nicola Wilson

TOURISM NOOSA: Tell us about your ideas for how you will sustain Noosa’s visitor economy across the region.

TN has noted that finding staff is a critical challenge for the industry. The lack of affordable  housing for lower income workers contributes to this shortage, and the proliferation of self contained short-term accommodation, comprising approx. 

80% of available beds (Noosa Shire Destination Management Plan Discussion Paper) is taking away housing from workers, and customers from traditional tourist accommodation businesses such as resorts and hotels. 

I would like to see more AirBnB properties returned to the housing market for residents, hotels and resorts being able to operate profitably at full capacity, and staff housed locally.    

However, I don’t see a councillor’s role as sustaining Noosa’s visitor economy. There are over 7,000 businesses in the Noosa region (7,621 in 2022, source, of which less than 1,000 are related to accommodation, food services and retail.

I believe it is Council’s role to ensure all industries are supported.    Council’s role is to ensure services are provided to the community. This includes ensuring roads, bridges, traffic management, parking, waste and sewerage systems can support residents, local businesses, and the increasing numbers of tourists, and to support future population growth in line with the SEQ Plan.

It is unfortunate that the transparency over Council’s contribution to tourism has been lost by removal of the tourism levy. Residents had greater transparency over source and use of funds – Council collected the levy from tourist businesses, then passed it back to the participants via TN.

Now, businesses may still be contributing to council income via increased rates, but it is less transparent to residents. I would support improved reporting to provide greater clarity around use of ratepayer funds. This would also help businesses in other industries, and particularly the hinterland, where business owners may feel less supported, to better understand the flow of funds. 

Nicola Wilson

Will our Council to be elected on March 16th stand up to big, loud lobby groups? That’s up to all of us.


This Post Has One Comment

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    I’m a little undecided on this matter. On one hand having a tourism consultant who is assertive in pushing the cause is what you want. However I think the third question is divisive and potentially misleading. What really needs to be assessed is the amount of incremental tourism the consultant can prove it has generated for Noosa verses status quo. This is a more relevant demonstration of value for money.

    In respect to asking for written answers, I assume the candidates could have refused. In doing so they risk negative inferences but could always verbalize their reasons at the meeting. Personally, I favour a written record over a spoken one. I’m not opposed to making a politician actually answer the question in writing.

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