Date: 16 April 2019
Subject: : Proposed Tourist & Visitor Accommodation Changes

Chamber Members,
The local CCB (Community Consultative Body) on behalf of the Berry community is currently lobbying Shoalhaven Council and the State Government for wide reaching changes to the Development controls around Tourist & Visitor Accommodation.

If these changes go through the Chamber Committee is extremely concerned regarding the negative effect they will have on the future of Tourism in our area. As we are all acutely aware Tourism is by far the No.1 source of employment in the Berry area and the entire region.

As we know, without tourism, many of the towns and businesses within our region would struggle to remain viable. This includes not just tourism facing businesses but also all the support businesses such as retail, restaurants, suppliers, tradesman etc.

We have written to the Development Committee of Council (see below) and value any further input or feedback you may have.

Kind regards,

Anthony Houghton
President – Berry Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Inc.

25th March, 2019

Development & Environment Committee
Shoalhaven City Council
cc: All Councillors, The General Manager

Dear Members of the Development & Environment Committee,

We are writing to you regarding the item discussed at your meeting held on the 5th of March – ‘Review – Planning Provisions – Tourist & Visitor Accommodation’.
The Berry Chamber of Commerce is one of the key stakeholders affected by this proposal and wish to take this opportunity to provide our response.

During the SCC’s Planning meeting, a presentation was made by Mr Coughlan, the Secretary of The Berry Forum, the CCB for the Berry Area. Mr Coughlan’s presentation champions these changes to Council alleging that they are the views of the Berry Forum and thus represent the views of the Berry Community.

It is important for Council to note that there has been no consultative process with the Berry community, including the Berry Chamber of Commerce & Tourism members who are significantly affected by the proposal.

In particular with regard to Mr Coughlan’s presentation to SCC, the changes being advocated have apparently been discussed with State Government representatives in 2016, 2017 and 2018 (based on the information contained in the presentation and the Berry Forum’s email of 14 March 2019), however it is unclear on whose authority those meetings were arranged and held (as the CCB is only tasked with promoting liaison between SCC and the local Berry community and has no authority with respect to State Planning matters).   Furthermore, no minutes of the meetings held with State Government representatives have been made available to the community for review and comment.

Furthermore, the CCB has not held a public meeting to specifically discuss the issue and to seek confirmation that the Berry community supports the changes proposed – as such any position proposed by Mr Coughlan cannot be considered “to be supported by the community”.

This statement is confirmed as Mr Coughlan acknowledged during his presentation that the decision to present to the SCC was not made at a formal, public Berry Forum meeting, but was a decision made by the Executive Committee alone.

Therefore, the proposal appears to represent the views of a very small minority and can in no way be characterised as representing the whole of the Berry Community.

Reading through the agenda notes there is clearly a requirement to update the regulations around Tiny Homes, Pop Up Canvas Tents, Plastic Igloos etc as these are new innovations which the regulations do not specifically cover. This is clearly a role for the relevant State planning department to investigate, consult with all councils in NSW and make these changes, if required.

The changes being proposed by Mr Coughlan have wide spread ramifications to any land zoned ‘RU’ or ‘E’ and to a very great many rate payers of the Shoalhaven.  These ramifications include decreased land values and the significant limitation of any kind of development.  This is a particular issue for rural enterprises given the difficulties faced many families on the land. Families who often have to find other ways to sustain their businesses due to issues beyond their control (Milk Prices, Drought etc).

This also poses a significant limitation on tourism development in the whole of the Shoalhaven. Tourism is by far the No.1 source of employment in the Berry area and the entire region. As we know without tourism, many of the towns and businesses within our region would struggle to remain viable. This includes not just tourism facing businesses but also all the support businesses such as retail, restaurants, suppliers, tradesman etc.

We believe the proposal to remove ‘Tourist & Visitor Accommodation’ and replace it with ‘Farmstay and B&B’ is a fundamental change to the controls and will affect the whole of the Shoalhaven.

Currently a 100 acre site is allowed 20 tourist cabins (1 per 5 acres). The changes as proposed would limit the same 100 acres to only 7 bedrooms in the forms of Farmstay or B&B only. These forms of accommodation are very limiting (both in capacity and market appeal) and do not represent the kind of growth that the Shoalhaven needs. Given the far reaching impact of the proposal, we believe there is a need for extensive research into the ramifications of any such changes before any further consideration.

It is also worth reading the ‘Shoalhaven Destination Management Plan’ which has been ratified by council and was subject to public consultation. There are a few pertinent excerpts below:

“Demand for high end eco style accommodation (including resorts, cabins and retreats) is growing and the Shoalhaven’s brand and visitation is well placed to support such developments,…”
“Current needs/gaps in the region’s accommodation supply are:
· high end boutique / eco / farm stay visitor accommodation of varying size;
· large scale visitor accommodation (50-100 rooms) – particularly needed in Berry, Norwa, Bay and Basin;
· resort style accommodation that has the flexibility to cater for large groups or traditional peak season couple or family market;
· quality low cost short term accommodation such as back packers, small dormitories (4-6 persons); 

A further highly relevant document is the ‘Statewide Destination Management Plan’ – please see a few paragraphs below:
“The Statewide DMP is designed to provide a high level framework to achieve alignment across NSW and assist coordinated delivery of the vision and goals for the NSW visitor economy.”
“The NSW Government has a goal of more than tripling the 2009 overnight visitor expenditure by 2030, aiming to achieve $45 billion by 2025 and $55 billion by 2030. A further goal is to achieve $20 billion in regional overnight tourism expenditure by 2025 and $25 billion by 2030.”
No 7 on the Destination NSW eight key strategic objectives is to “Maximise yield and dispersal from the visitor economy.” 
Tourism is a growth sector globally. According to UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili, “International travel continues to grow strongly, consolidating the tourism sector as a key driver in economic development. As the third export sector in the world, tourism is essential for job creation and the prosperity of communities around the world.” Tourism Research Australia’s (TRA’s) “State of the Industry” Report 2016-17 states that overnight tourism expenditure in Australia reached $103.2 billion in the year ended June 2017, and is currently forecast to reach $131 billion by 2020.
Also just released the ‘NSW Visitor Economy Industry Action Plan (VEIAP) Beyond 2020, The Road to 2030’
“Regional NSW presents an enormous opportunity to disperse visitor nights and expenditure and optimise visitor economy growth across the state.”  
“The taskforce identified regional NSW as a stand out opportunity for the visitor economy. 32% of respondents to an online survey commented on how more could be done at a grass roots level to boost visitation and increase economic output in regional NSW.”
Adam Marshall, Minister for Tourism and Major Events, – “The continued success of the visitor economy relies on the NSW Government providing a supportive legislative, marketing, and financial climate to deliver an environment supportive of continued expansion.’  

Clearly both the Local and State Governments see very strong growth in the tourism sector going forward therefore we need a holistic approach to work together to ensure our region can sustainably maximise this opportunity.

It is key to ensure all sectors of the community are fully briefed and understand the benefits a thriving tourism economy brings to the region as a whole.

The Chamber strongly supports Tourist & Visitor Accommodation in the region providing it complies with the relevant planning regulations and processes.

The Chamber of Commerce & Tourism would welcome the opportunity to talk to the Development & Environment Committee.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Houghton