In case you missed it . . .

Blind Freddy could see the community was in an uproar over the moniker Barrington Coast.

After widespread public outrage to the proposed destination name, ‘Barrington Coast’, manifested through thousands of posts across multiple Facebook sites; the rather unprecedented public poll conducted by our local member, Stephen Bromhead where there were over 3400 votes cast with 95% of people against this name, two public meetings also hosted by Mr Bromhead (held at Taree and Forster) and attended by over 260 people, with a similar overwhelming majority of people against the proposed name as in his poll; a public Petition on Change.Org established by Sandii Chan from Tallwoods that had over 1200 signatories, and a physical petition 0f over 400 signatures presented to the GM, the scene was set for the MidCoast Council to debate the Rescission Motion (to rescind, ie dump, the original idea) put forward by Councillors Peter Epov, Kathryn Bell and Jan McWilliams.

The Gallery was packed for the “great debate” on the future of our new destination name. Epov and Co were calling for a stay of proceedings and for the opportunity for the broader community to have a say on the name, frankly a very fair and reasonable proposition.

They had also submitted a second motion laying out a sensible road map as to how the matter should be advanced if their Rescission Motion got up.

For and Against

The original vote that caused all this controversy back in July was very close – 

For Barrington Coast were: Crs Keegan, Pontin, (Labor) Fowler (Liberal), Roberts (National), Hutchinson (affiliation unknown).

Against the name were: Crs Epov, Bell, McWilliams, Smith and Christensen, (all the Independents.) 

Mayor West had the last say and voted in favour of Barrington Coast. 

(Cr Christensen had given notice that he would not be attending.)

Nine speakers from the community had applied to address Council on the Rescission Motion. Eight were for the Rescission Motion ( and against the name) and one was for the name, who had a tourism interest in Barrington.

Cr Epov spoke, summing up  “What do we have to lose, when we listen to the collective wisdom of our residents, and our ratepayers – people who love this area and sincerely want to see it prosper. If we want our community to have faith in this Council, we have to respect their views and earn their trust.” 

As applause started in the gallery, Cr Len Roberts rose and moved a procedural motion; “that the matter be put” – effectively calling for an immediate vote without any further debate – effectively a gag on any further discussion by Councillors. 

This was greeted with shouts of treachery from the crowded chamber.

Curiously, the Mayor had decided that this would be the first meeting where the Council would apply Council’s new “Code of Meeting Practice”, a Code that had been adopted back in June, but had not been implemented, but he was word perfect in re-affirming Cr Robert’s right to move the procedural Motion.

This was followed by a number or procedural arguments where it is alleged that the Mayor made a number of procedural errors.

The Mayor denied Cr Bell the opportunity to speak as the seconder to the Motion.

The Mayor then ruled that Councillor Epov could speak in reply. Then he changed his mind after listening to Cr Roberts (which appears to be contrary to the rules in the Code) and ruled that Cr Epov could not speak in reply.

More catcalls and shouts from an outraged public gallery.

Later discussion amongst the public was the non engagement of Cr Keegan who could have made a stand but chose to sit down and say nothing. Not a good look for a prospective Labour candidate representative.

Everything To Gain

Perhaps one of the saddest indictments is that on this issue there was everything to gain and nothing to lose by allowing the Rescission motion to get up.  To let the community have a say. Here was an opportunity for Council to build some real trust and respect with the community.

What was really wrong, or dangerous, in allowing the community to participate in the discussion over the destination name? Thousands were demanding to have their say. There was no immediate urgency. The Destination Management Plan has been designed to 2030, that is when the supposed big bucks are proposed to flow in from the ‘Adventure’ Tourism that every Council in Australia has now identified and is clamouring to attract.

Competing for Adventure /
Nature tourism

It would seem that due to our natural landscape and environment, the future of tourism for the MidCoast area is  ‘Adventure Tourism’.

The fact is, that in a country like Australia practically every rural or regional council will be looking at this latest buzz word – “adventure tourism”.

So how smart is it for us to be competing with everybody else around the country over the same thing? Many of our competitors are far more advanced as they have greater budgets, better resources, clearly established brand names for this nature and adventure tourism. In business, generally whoever is first to a market, wins. 

Are we properly resourced and do we have the attractions developed to a scale that is of an equal, or better standard, of our competitors?  

The other key in business is “Value Added”. What intrinsic element do we possess that will provide that additional value that will not only allow us to compete but to gain advantage?

Our solitary characteristic is that we have pristine scenic land, but it needs enormous investment in order to compete with the already established nature / adventure sites and brands around NSW and the rest of the country. Do we have the investors ready to develop this segment of the tourism market? Does Council have the money to develop the infrastructure to service Adventure Tourism?

Name Now Toxic

Given all the controversy over the management of this issue by the Councillors, the name Barrington Coast is now toxic.  People for generations will be outraged and cynical, and Council will now have to spend time, effort and money trying to convince us that it is the best possible name based on very little research or consultation.

In answers to formal Questions on Notice placed by Cr Kathryn Bell, it was revealed by Council officers that the total budgeted cost for the Destination Brand Naming Project is $98,840.000 

At the December 20 2017 Council Meeting when the Destination Marketing Plan was first endorsed by Council, the Council also endorsed the destination name “NSW Mid North Coast”. 

Did some in Council really think that two names for our area, would not create confusion? 

It was a sensible idea to press Pause on this controversial decision for further consultation and some clear thinking, before aquiecsing to Cr Roberts. 

But, “too late she cried”, seems to be modus operandi under Mayor West. 

DM

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