In December 2017 MidCoast Council adopted a strategy document.
That might sound pretty uninteresting, but the Destination Management Plan (DMP) was the result of months of community consultation, and was a credit to all who were involved. A $695 million annual boost to our local economy was projected and now, seven months later, MidCoast councillors are jeopardising this potential windfall.
In 2016 the NSW Government announced that it would fund and develop a network of destinations focusing on channelling tourism prosperity to regions such as ours.
As part of ‘Destination North Coast’, the Mid North Coast sub-region stretches from Tea Gardens to Coffs Harbour and as such the DMP our council required needed to be competitive against our rivals to get our share of tourism traffic.
More than that, the DMP outlined a strategy that could be leveraged over the long term to help harness our unique, incomparable advantages for years to come.
So what was the first task in order to move towards this lofty vision? That contentious naming.
What is actually happening, though?
Our region needs a brand that can help deliver all those benefits that the DMP outlines. None of the existing tourism brands are being abolished but equally none of them is suitable to convey the entire message about our region.
What are the alternatives, you ask? Mid Coast was the first and it makes sense, until you do a bit of research. Mid Coast or Mid North Coast actually doesn’t exclusively define our region at all. It completely excludes our hinterland and inland areas, is already in use in other regions nearby and is about as emotionally bland as white rice.
As such, the Mid (North) Coast as a brand represents an appalling investment for us as a community.
The other options offered up? ‘Adventure’ or ‘Nature’ Coast were posited, only to find that we can’t own the intellectual property associated with these names. Further, since they don’t actually give us any geographical reference we will spend a bucket trying to try to get these names to resonate.
Tell me though, what is so contentious about the name ‘Barrington Coast’ for a region spreads from the Barrington Tops through to 196km of pristine coastline?
A beautiful Worimi phrase about our land depicts it as “a place where the leaves touch the waters from the mountains to the sea”. This was all shared as part of stakeholder workshops with prominent tourism-oriented businesses that occurred on the journey to this point.
The contention comes when our councillors who commissioned its development and know the narrative and rationale, fail to take our community on this journey.
Now, as a knee-jerk reaction that hits that special nerve of every politician - the threat of being unpopular – we face losing nearly $700 million in yearly economic gain.
The rescission motion before our councillors won’t be voted on for a month. If it’s passed, we’ll be waiting months more before we even get off the starting blocks.
I call on every business owner and every discerning citizen of our region to demand our councillors take swift and decisive action to get the delivery of this plan under way.
The hysteria on Facebook and in every café conversation all stems from a reaction to a headline. A headline that says we’re renaming the region without any warning, taking away your identity, pulling down those billboards and consigning them to the scrap heap.
The only thing is, that’s not what’s happening at all. The only squandering going on is our opportunity to deliver businesses a chance to thrive.
You see, we have a youth unemployment rate that is an absolute disgrace. When you consider that our region’s biggest employment sector is health and social services, it’s not hard to believe that changes to government health or disabilities funding could lay waste to countless families that call our area home.
We need business to get a fair go from those who have the means to offer it, ignore this at your peril.
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