Assets grab blocked

GYMPIE Cooloola Tourism has no intention of going quietly into the night, it seems.

Like sands through the hourglass, the divorce between Gympie Regional Council and the now independent incorporated tourism group is final, but the council lost a custody battle over $200,000 worth of assets it was determined should be returned to Gympie region ratepayers.

GCT was having none of that, getting legal advice and then politely informing the council it would not be handing over any assets and there was nothing the council could do about it.

The local authority cut the GCT free early this year after former councillor Jan Watt was elected to chair the board in December 2012, deciding to instead fund and run its own tourism organisation - Destination Gympie Region.

It has since cut all funding to the incorporated body and pulled its two council representatives - Crs Rae Gate and Julie Walker - off the management committee.

"Our vision is to promote the region better and more broadly as the ideal place to visit, enjoy, live and invest," Mayor Ron Dyne said in announcing the appointment earlier this month of former Tourism Fraser Coast chief Pip Close to develop a plan for Gympie's new tourism organisation.

The council had written to the GCT in January asking that, "on the basis of the assets it holds originating from the community, and noting the major source of income for it has been ratepayer funds, how does it intend to disburse these assets, in accordance with its constitution?".

The GCT responded that it would not be relinquishing the assets, which include investments, vehicles, computers and furniture.

The council had little say when it noted that response last Wednesday at its general meeting, except to say that it has "tried and failed" to get its hands on those assets.

"I have been extremely open about why GCT has and must use its assets," an unapologetic Ms Watt said this week.

"We can deliver on the ground for about a third or a quarter of the cost that local government can. And we can use that money to leverage more dollars for the region through grants etc that council's aren't eligible for.

"Why would council not want us to continue working for this region this way, if that is the benefit we offer?

"Council may call itself the local tourism organisation but they cannot be a membership organisation and cannot offer operators those membership benefits in Queensland's tourism structures."

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