“Barrington Coast”? The discussion at MidCoast Council’s meeting

“Barrington Coast” has been put on the back-burner until next month’s ordinary meeting of MidCoast Council thanks to a rescission motion filed on Thursday morning, July 26 after extensive debate and discussion at the July 25 council meeting initially returned a positive outcome for the suggested branding.

“The resolution from the meeting on Wednesday, July 25 to implement the Barrington Coast destination name will not take effect until the rescission motion has been dealt with,” a spokesperson from council said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, held in Taree, a number of residents spoke both for and against the recommendation, and a number of amendments were suggested and debated by councillors before the resolution.

Speaker against the recommendation, Nawal Kant Maharaj said the report the recommendation was based on had little substance.

“Barrington Coast is as meaningless as Harrington Tops,” he said.

Mr Maharaj posed the question, “Were any Aboriginal groups or Taree businesses contacted? The report doesn’t say. Where are these groups represented in the consultation?”

Also speaking against the recommendation, Jim Morwitch said developing a tourism brand was a challenging conundrum and the solution was “not quite right yet”.

He said, “There is wisdom in revisiting the issue, this is laying the foundation for a long term marketing strategy and alternative constructive views should be considered.”

Speaking for the recommendation, resident of Gloucester for 40 years, Suzanne Hedditch said she was in the tourism industry and had been in this destination planning process from the beginning.

“People like me have the most to lose from this, it is our livelihood,” she said.

“Barrington Coast is the most uniting option. It won’t detract from the identity of the Great Lakes, Manning region, Gloucester or anywhere else.”

Ivor Thomas, speaking as a private citizen also supported the recommendation, saying he was passionate about the area and thought this was a chance to create an amazing identity.

“The opposition to this is misdirected, the fear of loss of identity is exasperated by the merge of the council areas, but this will create a unique destination, not remove or replace anything,” he said.

“This isn’t for the residents, it’s for the tourists, so they know where and what we are as an area.”

Councillor Troy Fowler moved the recommendation and Cr Claire Pontin seconded the motion.

Cr Brad Christensen moved an amendment, suggesting the matter be deferred until the next ordinary meeting so that further community consultation could be undertaken. 

Cr Christensen said while he was not necessarily in support of the name, he was in support of the direction of creating a brand.

“This is about new visitors to the region; the ones who already come here will continue to do so,” he said.

The motion to amend the recommendation was seconded by Cr Peter Epov, who suggested the community should be “taken by the hand”.

Speaking against the proposed amendment, Cr Len Roberts said council needed to make an executive decision and show leadership. 

“There is no advantage to deferring this matter,” he said.

Cr Jan McWilliams spoke in favour of the amendment, citing concern about the loss of identity of individual areas through the branding.

The amendment was rejected, with Crs Roberts, Pontin, Fowler, David Keegan, Karen Hutchinson and mayor, David West voted against the amendment.

Speaking to the original motion to adopt the recommendation, Cr Fowler said the name fitted the area perfectly.

“I didn’t like it originally, but it sums up our large region. This is the right thing for our business community.”

Cr Pontin spoke in agreement, saying it was important to adopt a name that was a geographical anchor.

“It’s time for us to stand up and make a decision, I wouldn’t agree with this if I wasn’t completely convinced.”

Cr Kathryn Bell moved an amendment, requesting further work-shopping of the name with extensive community consultation, and motion was seconded by Cr Epov.

“To pretend this doesn’t matter to residents is folly,” Cr Bell said.

Speaking against the amendment, Cr Roberts said it was an issue for which targeted consultation was required.

Cr Katheryn Smith spoke for the amendment, saying an additional workshop would be beneficial.

“This actually has significance, it’s just not quite there yet and a bit of extra time won’t hurt,” she said.

The amendment was lost, with Crs Roberts, Keegan, Pontin, Fowler, Hutchinson and mayor, David West voting against.

Mayor, David West ended debate on the original motion, emphasising the decision would not negatively impact the individual regions of Manning Valley, Great Lakes, Gloucester and Barrington Tops.

“The key fear of the community is losing the identify of the each individual area, this is not going to happen,” he said.

The recommendation was adopted after extensive discussion by councillors, with Crs Roberts, Keegan, Pontin, Hutchinson, Fowler and mayor, David West voting for the motion.

Member for Myall Lakes Stephen Bromhead was baffled at council’s decision to adopt the name Barrington Coast.

“During the week this is one of the hot issues raised with me as I have been travelling around Mid Coast communities big and small and talking with people at pubs, clubs and coffee shops,” Mr Bromhead said.

“I have not come across anyone who believes this name best represents our region or what we have to offer.”