THE future of Visitor Information Centres in South Gippsland is hanging in the balance.
The council is considering a number of options for the centres, including closing the Foster and Korumburra VICs.
Council met with around 20 concerned locals on Thursday, April 27 to discuss five options for the future of information services in the region.
In brief, the five options are:
1. Continue operating both centres – currently $325,000 per annum
2. Close both centres and increase online presence – estimated to cost $100,000 to $150,000 per annum
3. Combine council general customer service functions with visitor information services in shared desk facilities in Korumburra and/or Foster during peak times – cost $325,000 per annum plus infrastructure costs
4. Investigate having one centrally accredited centre. Extensive community and industry consultation, and a cost-benefit analysis are needed to identify accurate costs – approximate cost of $250,000 per annum
5. Close Korumburra and maintain Foster. Korumburra will be replaced with a non-accredited (no yellow ‘i’ symbol) volunteer-run centre with limited opening in non-peak times and increased digital presence – estimated to cost $250,000 per annum
The council’s Visitor Services coordinator, Renae Littlejohn, kept the presentation on the options short to ensure there was time for questions.
Local Rob Cosson told council having information only online wouldn’t be enough for visitors.
“You only get the information that you ask for online. Whereas if you go to a visitor information centre, that’s where you get the experiences for that area. If it’s a cost effective thing, it might cost you less but it’s going to hurt you more by not having the centres open.”
The council’s director of Development Services, Bryan Sword, said industry trends showed around five per cent of people use VICs when travelling.
Korumburra resident Terry Waycott asked about the possibility of bringing on more volunteers at the Korumburra centre and thus eliminating the need for part-time staff.
Mr Sword said both centres are well supported by volunteers.
“The volunteers at Coal Creek, which is a large base, do a lot and you need to be careful you don’t fatigue volunteers. There are always opportunities to get more people involved and with that comes its own administration challenge.
“But that’s why it’s identified as an opportunity to save on costs and maybe provide that service in a more informal component.”
Mr Waycott suggested improvements to signs for the Korumburra VIC, specifically so drivers can clearly see the VIC sign coming from Leongatha. Another attendee called out and said the sign was “weathered and dirty”.
Mr Sword said visitors who want to find their closest VIC often search for it online.
Council is asking visitors and the community to fill out a survey about visitor information services, available on the council’s website at www.southgippsland.vic.gov.au/visreview and in VICs in Foster and Korumburra.
Community consultation is open until Friday, May 19. There will be another public consultation session on Tuesday, May 9 at the Foster VIC from 5.30pm to 6pm.
For more information, contact Renae Littlejohn on 5662 9200 or email renae.littlejohn@southgippsland.vic.gov.au.