MAYOR Col Murray’s call for a levy on businesses during festival and major events has been lambasted as “shortsighted and opportunistic”.
A bombshell was dropped in council’s agenda for its last meeting of the year, with Cr Murray’s mayoral minute calling for an investigation into securing a “revenue stream” from local businesses which benefit from costly major events, including the Country Music Festival.
Cr Murray said events come a cost to council and the ratepayers and it was time for business to chip-in.
“It is important that council is proactive in ensuring those who benefit most from the attraction, management and subsidisation of major events are also making an appropriate contribution towards the cost of hosting those events,” he said.
But the proposal was tough to take for motel owners like Greg Johnstone who said the industry was already up against it with increased competition from Airbnb and home stays.
“I think this is really short-sighted and opportunistic,” Mr Johnstone told The Leader.
“It's not considering the businesses' overall expenses across the year.
“[Festival’s] only 10 days a year, I've still got to pay staff when it's not busy.”
Cr Murray’s minute says “the principal beneficiaries are accommodation providers, hotels, restaurants, cafes and retailers” on the back of big events.
But Tamworth Business Chamber President Jye Segboer said a levy would need to encompass everyone who benefits from the big events in order to be deemed fair.
Mr Segboer said local supermarkets has “massive sales” figures during festival, while airlines also benefited from increased travel.
“Will they be asked to contribute as well,” Mr Segboer asked.
He said the chamber would oppose a levy if it didn’t encompass all industries which stood to benefit from major events.
While businesses were feeling stung by the suggestion, council found a supporter in its usual sparring partner, the ratepayers association.
Vice-president David McKinnon said the “ones who benefit the most should contribute more”.
“There are very few councils that have the costs that are associated with the festival,” he said.
He said ratepayers are the “most-inconvenienced” by the festival, often leaving town during the period and fired-back at businesses propped-up by festival.
“If businesses cannot cope without festival, that’s a pretty vulnerable business model anyhow,” he said.