MORE than 2300 people have signed a petition calling on the Bass Coast Shire Council to rescind its decision to close the Wonthaggi Visitor Information Centre.
The petition, raised by the Rotary Club of Wonthaggi, was presented to the council last Wednesday by Rotary president Heather Earle who expressed her concerns on two fronts.
Not only did Mrs Earle say that the community was very concerned about the council’s intention to close the centre but she was also disappointed that the council listed in its agenda that only 15 people had signed the petition.
“To be honest, it was quite a confusing process how you go about preparing a petition. We were told you only need three signatures to have it tabled,” Mrs Earle said.
“So we think it wasn’t fair for the council to say that only 15 people signed it. It reflects badly on us to say we only got 15 people when we know we got well over 2000 people and we could have got more,” she said in presenting the petition to the Mayor Cr Crugnale on behalf of the council.
Cr Neil Rankine thanked Rotary and Mrs Earle and conceded it was unfortunate that the agenda said 15 people signed it, which was probably a quirk of the agenda notification process.
He said council was now waiting for expressions of interest from the community about operating the centre, predicting there could still be a good outcome.
Cr Phillips said there was a proposal about keeping the centre open without the use of shire staff.
But Cr Wright said the decision to close the centre was just a reality of a tight budget and low visitor numbers.
“This is a reflection of capping the rate increase to 2.5 per cent. The community pushed hard for that and the State Government pushed harder.”
He said that while the Wonthaggi Visitors Centre was an excellent venue, it simply didn’t attract the numbers that Newhaven did.
“We respect the 2000 signatures but we have the financial reality of a 2.5 per cent rate increase and changes have to be made.”
The Wonthaggi Business Association has expressed some interest in taking on the management of the visitor information centre, which they say has to be kept open for another 18 months due to conditions of the grant but they couldn’t run it without a financial contribution from the council.