LOCAL town rivalry came off the football field and netball courts today and into the political arena as two Foster community groups went out of their way to undermine Korumburra’s bid to retain its visitor information centre.

At a public presentation session this morning, Wednesday, June 28, there were three submissions in favour of retaining the Korumburra info centre, at least until alternative promotional arrangements were in place.

But Foster Community Association President Lyn Atkinson, also representing the Foster Chamber of Commerce, thanked the shire council for the process and declared full support for the officer’s recommendation going forward to the council meeting this afternoon at 2pm.

The first point in the three-part recommendation calls for the closure of the information centre at Korumburra, as follows:

“That Council: 1. Close the Korumburra Visitor Information Centre by 31 July 2017 and continue to operate an accredited Visitor Information Centre at Foster. 2. Allocate $100k to develop a digital tourism strategy which targets service and growth of South Gippsland visitor economy. 3. Receive a future report which considers and adopts the digital tourism strategy.

Ms Atkinson even went so far as to suggest how the shire council might spend the $100,000 saving it was expecting to make out of the closure of the Korumburra centre.

Asked afterwards why her group had gone out of its way to dump on Korumburra’s attempts to retain its information centre, Ms Atkinson simply said her group supported the recommendation, understanding the need to spend the shire’s tourism budget more wisely, without specifically commenting on the closure of Korumburra.

Earlier, Korumburra Business Association President Noelene Cosson, spoke passionately in favour of retaining the Korumburra Visitor Information Centre.

“There are things that are half in place that could take the place of the visitor information centres in time but they are not in place yet and the branding and digital strategy are part of that,” Mrs Cosson said in answer to a question from Coastal Promontory Ward Councillor Jeremy Rich.

Mrs Cosson took the councillors through a search of their own website to find unexplained links to Prom Country Regional Tourism tucked away, saying there was no nexus between visiting South Gippsland and Prom Country.

Mrs Cosson said there was a fundamental breakdown in the shire’s branding of tourism locally which would need to be sorted out before it considered shutting down face-to-face tourism promotion.

She said information centre at Korumburra was poorly sign-posted and almost invisible to the passing trade.

Other presenters, including local business man David Amor and community stalwart Shirley Cowling reiterated that theme; Ms Cowling in particular encouraging the shire to train more volunteers to support the operation of the visitors centre at Korumburra.

Mr Amor said he feared the impact on Coal Creek if the visitor’s centre was closed.

None of the Korumburra speakers recommended the closure of the Foster Visitor Information Centre, on the contrary they said it was important to have tourism information at both main entrances to the South Gippsland or ‘Prom Country’ area.

Strzelecki Ward Councillor Lorraine Brunt indicated a thaw in council’s hard line on the closure of Korumburra’s info centre when she said at the end of today’s public presentations that there may be “some middle ground” for council to follow with relation to local tourism promotion. Watch this space.

Photos: Above Korumburra Business Association President Noelene Cosson at the South Gippsland Shire Council public presentation session today. Below, the Foster community groups have come out supporting the council recommendation, retaining their centre but closing Korumburra’s.