Businessman speaks on local effects of tourism decline

Local businessman Geoff McGuinness addressed last week’s council meeting in an effort to bring to councillors awareness the detrimental effects the loss of free camping and a decline in tourism numbers is having on the town.

Local businessman Geoff McGuinness used the public access forum at last week’s Ordinary Council Meeting to speak about his concerns (and that of other local business owners) on the decline of tourists stopping in Cobar.

“The town is a laughing stock,” Mr McGuinness told council.

“Bourke’s caravan parks are overflowing.

“Cobar businesses have dropped, from what I can make of it, about 15 per cent on last year’s figures,” he said.

“We have to offer free camping (or low cost camping as we should be calling it) to stop this.”

Mr McGuinness said he had been speaking to staff at local fuel stations who were reporting that caravaners were buying only 30-40 litres.

“Just enough to get them on to Bourke!”

He said Cobar had a “crook name” in caravan and camping circles.

“We have people coming into the shops and complaining about it all the time,” he said.

“The only industry we’ve got that can get started now is the tourist industry.

“The State Government is now spending millions of dollars to try and get people to travel from Sydney to out west instead of going north or south which is a terrific idea.”

He told councillors that Cobar is missing out on gains from what is becoming a very lucrative industry.

“I would just like the shire to sit down and work out where we can put a good free camping area to do the town for years to come.”

In the interim Mr McGuinness asked council to consider opening up Ward Oval to alleviate the situation until a more permanent area could be sorted.

“There is room there to park vans down around the golf course between the two ovals,” he suggested.

Mr McGuinness said council could charge a $5 fee to help offset the costs to have the toilets cleaned and they could also offer powered sites with a $15-$20 fee.

“They will pay it,” he said of campers.

Mr McGuinness said he felt that improvements also needed to be made to the
caravan park, which is council owned and leased out.

He said fees charged at the Cobar Caravan Park were higher than those charged in Bourke but said campers in Bourke were being offered more for their money, including lost cost meals and a courtesy bus to the local clubs.

“If the businesses were going well, which they’re not at the moment, the town benefits, there’s jobs for the people.

“Cobar is set up for tourists. It has some good shops for tourists, travellers and people.

“We are set up better than Bourke in that respect, yet Bourke is killing Cobar with tourists.

“Tourism here now. The numbers are dropping, the mines are not helping. We need it now.

“We are not taking advantage of it,” he said.