Cobram’s business community has rallied to save the town’s iconic Visitor Information Centre.
Cath Noonan from Noonan’s Showcase Jewellers, a vocal supporter of retaining the tourism facility, recently organised a petition to raise awareness and garner support in the local community.
She said the future of the centre was not negotiable, since it was a community facility that had been supported by countless thousands of hours of volunteer labour for many years.
‘‘These people need to be acknowledged and their marvellous efforts need to be respected,’’ Ms Noonan said.
‘‘It’s wonderful to have such dedicated and friendly people to devote their time to welcoming our visitors to Cobram.
‘‘I have passed on the first pages of the petition to the shire — with 700 signatures so far — and it’s still in the shops, so please sign it if you want our centre to stay.’’
Cobram Outdoors and Disposal Store proprietor Sam Kennedy said he also supported the visitor centre in Cobram.
‘‘It definitely needs to stay open,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s a hub to the community and tourism. The amount of people who go through there, it’s in great numbers — they visit there and visit our store.’’
Mr Kennedy said the centre was an essential element of the town’s tourism infrastructure and its absence would be hard to comprehend, like not having a public toilet.
‘‘Tourism is all we have — over the river, Berrigan is about to inject a ton of money into Tocumwal.
‘‘It’s their only tourism spot on the river and they need the tourism, so they’re going for it.’’
Ku De Ta restaurant (formerly Beach Cafe) owner David Gemmill said closure of the visitor centre would be devastating for tourism in Cobram.
‘‘The powers that be will tell us that we no longer need to have bricks and mortar, but I think that’s false,’’ he said.
‘‘The patronage they get there says it all — I think it’s an absolute necessity for our town.
‘‘I know that when I travel to another town and I see the big, blue and yellow ‘i’ I can ask a local — that’s what it means,’’ Mr Gemmill said.
‘‘I would imagine the shire would say, we’ve got three or four full-time or part-time staff that work there, and they would say there is no income coming from that information centre.
‘‘That’s not what it should be about — Moira Shire, in essence, are employed by us as members of the community.
‘‘The point is, if someone sees the big ‘i’ at Cobram, they’ll pull over and they’ll go into a store and buy a coffee, or go to the supermarket and buy a loaf of bread, and then get sent to the best beach in town.
‘‘I don’t know what the Moira Shire’s agenda is, but they certainly haven’t consulted the community about it.
‘‘If they asked me if the visitor centre was necessary or relevant, I would say, ‘Yes’.
‘‘But no-one seems to have asked the relevant people,’’ he said.
‘‘I am strongly for keeping the centre open.
‘‘Every day, I have people here who have been to the information centre and a local person has said, ‘While you are here, go and see our lovely places’ — and we are one of them.’’
Mr Gemmill said the problem was that with Moira Shire being enveloped in several communities, the Cobram Visitor Information Centre had lost its identity.
‘‘We need to promote Cobram — not Moira Shire,’’ he said.
‘‘We did not choose to be part of Moira Shire — we were made to be when the government decided to amalgamate local municipalities and shires.
‘‘So now we are losing our identity because the shire are Moira, they don’t want to be specific to one town or community.
‘‘What they need to do is give us back our identity, give us back our information centre and let the volunteers talk to the people that come to our beautiful town.’’
The RACV Cobram Resort is immensely popular and, in the past financial year, the resort has been a home away from home to some 81165 people.
One of its biggest weekends in terms of in-house guests at any one time was last year’s Melbourne Cup weekend, which saw 482 people staying in all styles of accommodation — apartments, cabins, caravans and tents.
RACV Cobram Resort operations manager, Steve Tatnall said the tourist information centre and the resort worked in tandem.
‘‘A large percentage of our guests are purely here for a holiday,’’ Mr Tatnall said.
‘‘While we are able to provide tourists with information regarding the region, the tourist centre will also send travellers down to the resort for accommodation.
‘‘It is vital for the Sun Country region to maintain a centre in the town with the large number of tourists passing through.
‘‘With close proximity to the Newell Highway, we are a popular stop with people often staying for a few days.
‘‘And with tourist items such as the Farm Gate Trail on offer, many businesses will lose out if there was no information centre, including the RACV Cobram Resort.’’
- Grahame Whyte