AFTER spending a day travelling around Gippsland I returned home to contemplate the stupidity of the whole process of government as encapsulated by the fate of the visitor information centre. It's a beautiful building, a credit to the dreamers and builders, but why isn't it at the State Coal Mine, the tourist destination in Wonthaggi?
I volunteered at the information centre when we first moved into the area; it was great to be part of such a professional organisation that added greatly to tourists' enjoyment. If cuts force the level of service to drop there must be an adverse impact on businesses in Wonthaggi.
I once saw a local volunteer talk a bus load of tourists through an itinerary that made Inverloch and Wonthaggi seem like a cross between the Riviera and Carnaby Street, all beaches, cafes and markets without mentioning a penguin. They left that building ready to have the best holiday ever.
The people who staff the centre are the best possible advertisement for this area. I once saw a local volunteer talk a bus load of tourists through an itinerary that made Inverloch and Wonthaggi seem like a cross between the Riviera and Carnaby Street, all beaches, cafes and markets, without once mentioning a penguin. They left that building ready to have the best holiday ever.
My fervent hope is that this isn't the start of a process to outsource the tourist information centres. (And then the libraries; they don't make a profit either, do they?) The information centres provide an essential service to many locals as well as tourists; this is the go-to place for information about public transport and amenities.
The easiest solution is to give up. Before the Plaza denuded that end of town, the placement of the information centre made some sense. In this election year, I think the council needs to consider ways to get people and business into the area, not how to save a few bucks by abandoning yesterday's dream.
In the rest of the country, most stand-alone information centres have some sort of café or eatery. Why not turn some of the space into a small, cosy café and give people a reason to go there? Maybe an outdoor pop-up or mobile café similar to the one at Grantville. The council could even enter into a partnership with a hospitality training operation to upskill some locals.
Although it’s at the other end of the spectrum, for some years there has been a campaign for a dump point at that site to lure campervan users into the area; another business opportunity.
And why not move the damned V-Line bus shelter there? Imagine if you could stay dry, have a coffee and read a paper while waiting for that bus to Melbourne. You know, there could be a few votes in this.