National's $25million tourism impact pledge
COMPETITION among the three candidates for the seat of Ballina with Nationals Candidate for Ballina seeking to woo voters in the north of the electorate with a $25million Impact of Tourism Fund for Byron Shire
National Party leader John Barilaro was on hand along with representatives of business and tourism groups and community organisations at the Byron Bay Surf Club for the announcement of what Mr Franklin called a 'game changer'- a fund aimed at re-mediating some of the massive impacts tourism has on the shire's infrastructure, especially roads.
"If the state government are re-elected we will establish a new Impacts of Tourism Fund- a pilot fund for the Byron Shire," Mr Franklin said.
"Eighty percent of the funds will be earmarked to be spent fixing local roads and the other 20% can also be allocated to roads or other infrastructure needs such as amenities blocks and lighting.
"The fund will be run by the NSW Government in consultation with the Byron Shire Council and the community to make sure we get the right projects selected.
Acting Mayor of Byron Shire Council, Michael Lyon said, "We welcome any announcement of funding that will assist us in addressing some of the $70 million backlog of road infrastructure works in Byron Shire.
"There are many other infrastructure needs as well, including drainage, bridges and road barriers to name a few that are sorely in need of extra funding.
What is really needed is a long term source of funding, preferably locally-sourced such as a bed tax, so we can plan appropriately.
"This would involve a bigger investment in in-house road-building crews and expertise which, without recurrent funding, is hard to plan for and execute."
Mr Barilaro said that the state government recognised that Byron Shire was a tourism hotspot with 2.1 million visitors to the region having a profound impact on local infrastructure paid for from rates drawn from just 15,300 properties.
"We already have a Resources for Regions Fund which is about helping shires dealing with the impacts of mining. We made a similar announcement for communities affected by forestry where we have funds earmarked to help those shires. It is no different for Byron where the local resource is tourism," Mr Barilaro said.
"This is an election commitment for the people of Byron Shire, who speak to me every day about the need for greater support to help them deal with the volume of tourists they receive each year," Mr Franklin said.
"The funding will be allocated in close consultation with Byron Shire Council and the local Byron Bay community. I pledge to work closely with locals to ensure we get the most out of this commitment."