BETTER signage was required to point people to Gunnedah Visitor Information Centre, regardless of whether it was moved as part of a second rail overpass planned for the town, a resident has claimed.
It would also be a much cheaper option than building a new visitor information centre, Gunnedah resident Michael Sparkes said.
Mr Sparkes said despite council saying it was considering three options for the overpass and canvassing opinion through a public meeting on November 26 about relocating the centre, it had already “made its mind up” to move the centre from its present South St location.
But Gunnedah mayor Owen Hasler said this was not the case, with a second public meeting planned for April and a report to be made to the council in May.
“You can’t make a decision and have options until you go through the investigative process,” Cr Hasler said.
A letter to Mr Sparkes from Gunnedah Shire Council general manager Eric Grothe said the review of the centre’s location was “to ensure that the tourism budget is managed as efficiently as possible”.
Council had initiated the review for three reasons, he said – “the likely highway rerouting brought about by the building of the second rail overbridge near New St; potential cost savings achieved by co-locating the centre within another council building; and to examine ways to increase the tourist dollar spend locally”.
“The review will consider: visitor numbers, digital presence, services provided, signage, CBD visitation, highway traffic, parking, grant funding and alternate uses of the current centre,” Mr Groth said.
Cr Hasler said it was unfortunate the staffing levels at the centre had become entwined in the process of the overpass and potential moving of the centre.
There are no volunteers at the centre and staff had been “downsized” by one-and-a-half positions in order to provide an annual cost saving of $50,000.
Several people who addressed the first public meeting said that better signage should be provided – and also said council should leave the centre where it is.
Mr Sparkes told The Leader the only place he could slate as viable for the centre to be moved to was Kitchener Park: it was the only place which could also accommodate caravan parking and be relatively close to the central business district.
“You don’t want to go along Mullaley Rd – it has the brickworks and is an industrial area,” Mr Sparkes said.
Gunnedah Town Hall, touted as a potential spot for the centre by Infrastructure Services director Wayne Kerr at the November meeting, drew criticism from the audience.
Mr Sharpe said it was a “ludicrous” proposition as the busy traffic and lack of parking made it unviable.