Councillors divided over sponsorship of ‘iconic’ event
Sponsorship of an "iconic" Whitsunday event has divided councillors, with debate raging over whether the council should chip in funds for a private venture.
Last week it was announced the White on Whitehaven Long Lunch would be held on May 29 hosted by Fish D'vine and the event sold out so quickly, a second lunch was announced for May 30.
Previously, the event has been held in conjunction with the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, which hits our shores every two years.
The race is not due to be held in 2021, so White on Whitehaven will go ahead as a stand-alone event.
At last week's council meeting, councillors debated whether a $5000 sponsorship should be granted for the event.
Division 6 councillor Mike Brunker did not think the council should financially support it because it would be subsidising a private enterprise.
"Clearly now this is a private venture," he said.
"We have given this venture two years of funding.
"We were in it twice while Clipper was here and I firmly believe that should be us out. It has flipped over the edge.
"If it becomes an iconic event power to them, but it should not be done under the auspice of council."
But Mayor Andrew Willcox disagreed, saying he supported the sponsorship because one in three jobs in the Whitsundays was tied up in tourism.
"They have had a massive hit, tourism has been the single biggest industry hit by COVID-19 anywhere in Australia," Cr Willcox said.
"I see this as a very good thing that the council has paved the way to do this in the first stages and now private enterprise has come in."
Cr Willcox said the event would not only bring visitors, but also create social media exposure for the region.
"Where we are right now after 2020 with COVID, we need as many people as we can get," he said.
Council agenda documents state the event is expected to generate $158,000 in direct benefits for the region through event organiser expenditure and visitor spend.
An additional $83,000 in benefits is expected in the supply chain and consumption flow-on effect.
Division 1 councillor Jan Clifford argued White on Whitehaven was already an iconic event and brought a different demographic of people into town.
"They drop a lot of money in town," Cr Clifford said.
"With COVID we have to look inward at festivals and events that will bring people into town."
Cr Brunker replied the event was iconic because it was attached to the Clipper race.
"It was an organised event for Clipper, which was a worthwhile attraction," Cr Brunker said.
"Now the Clipper is not coming, this particular vendor has decided to run it himself for his own profit.
"If The Pub put on an Akka Dakka a revival band in two months' time, which might bring people to the Whitsundays, are we going to afford to do that?
"If it was for the Airlie Beach Rotary or whatever happy days, I would be in it."
Deputy Mayor John Collins also did not support the sponsorship.
"This is previously a biannual event, every two years, and all of a sudden they are pulling one out of the hat for 2021 after 2020," Cr Collins said.
"Not being a not-for-profit organisation I cannot support it, I am afraid."
While three Whitsunday councillors - Cr Brunker, Cr Collins and councillor Michelle Wright - voted against giving the funds, the remaining four councillors voted in favour and got the sponsorship over the line.