WARTOOK Valley residents have responded with mixed feelings to a State Government initiative which aims to return tourism to the Grampians in the wake of January’s bushfire.
Regional Development Victoria business development manager Mark Roberts told a gathering of more than 35 people at a bushfire recovery meeting at Wartook Pottery Tearooms on Monday the government would spend $100,000 on providing 60 business
consultants across Ararat and northern Grampians fire-affected areas.
“Consultants are on standby to come in here and work with businesses to develop recovery and action strategies for small to medium enterprises who have been directly affected through loss of property and income,” he said.
“These consultants will look at everything from cash flow to marketing.”
Mr Roberts said businesses would be prioritised in terms of the fire’s impact.
He said seven businesses in the Wartook district had already signed up and expected all 60 places to be filled by the end of this week.
But some residents in the audience remained dubious whether `consultants’ were what they needed.
Grampians Horseriding operator Cameron McDonald wanted to know if the government had done any research to prove consultants were an effective approach to fire recovery.
“We are all very sharp operators, we all know how a business should be run, you are just prolonging the agony,” he told Mr Roberts.
Mr Roberts said consultant programs in the state’s north-east had been successful and reiterated that it was just stage one of the government’s work.
When Horsham Mayor and meeting chairman Roslyn MacInnes requested a timeline for stage two recovery, Mr Roberts replied that it would depend on funding available.
Wartook Valley Promotion Group president Steve Price highlighted the urgency for solutions, telling the meeting tour buses had already cancelled their tours through Wartook Valley from April to October.
“They probably won’t say this but if they can get better value out of their buses in other regions why come here? Three buses from Melbourne and three from Adelaide have pulled,” he said.
“How are we going to fix the continual flow of tourists, how are we going to attract those visitors and those tour companies back when there are a lot of other areas that are more attractive to those tourists?
“I can sit there with consultants and talk about it but we need our bread and butter tourists back. It’s taken six years to build our businesses up just to watch it slip through our hands in the past month.”