Mayoral contenders weigh in on tourism hub proposal

RAIL PROPOSAL: The city’s mayoral contenders have expressed their views about a proposal to transform The Rail into a tourism hub.

MAYORAL contender and prominent business leader Lynette Martin OAM has thrown her support behind a proposal to transform the Mount Gambier Railway Lands into a tourist hotspot.

The proposal – which includes restoring the existing station building to become the city’s new visitor information centre and transport terminal, with caravan parking and turnaround facilities at the Bay Road end – was formally announced last week by Tourism Mount Gambier member Max Bruins and Chamber of Commerce vice president Ben Hood.

Both Mr Bruins and Mr Hood are vying for positions on Mount Gambier City Council.

Ms Martin said she had supported the concept for “many years” and agreed the space was being underutilised.

“It makes such good sense to have both the visitor information centre and bus terminal situated in the central business district, as these facilities are centrally located in most cities in Australia and indeed the world,” Ms Martin said.

“Council has invested in transforming the railway lands to the stage it is today, but my observation is that it is being underutilised and I believe this would breathe life into the precinct.”

She added relocating the city’s visitor information centre would potentially grow the tourism market.

“If we can grow our tourism market, it will create employment and hopefully attract new business to Mount Gambier and therefore contribute to our economy in the future,” Ms Martin said.

Meanwhile, mayoral hopeful Mark Jones said he was opposed to “carving off” part of The Rail precinct to build a car park.

“I believe public open space is sacrosanct and we must resist the urge to carve off parts of the railway lands for car parking,” he told The Border Watch.

“I agree parts of the precinct are underutilised and the station building should have an engineering report conducted on it to get an idea as to how structurally sound it is.

“The challenge right now is to entice tourists to go from the information centre located on the highway into the city centre.

“This has can be addressed by giving tourists who attend the information centre free coffee vouchers for use in inner city cafes.”

Incumbent mayor Andrew Lee said council had already explored the option of building a transport terminal at The Rail before the site was developed.

“When we developed the railway lands the bus shelter idea was floated and ultimately elected members decided it was not the right place for it,” Mr Lee said.

“The Rail is a family-friendly open space and having buses in and out of that area seven days a week was a safety concern.

“As for the visitor information centre, we have one at the Lady Nelson and one at the Main Corner, so we already have visitor services in a central location.

“Ratepayers would need to support the costs of another visitor information facility.”

Ms Martin said the relocation would showcase The Rail, while its proximity to the central business district would benefit retailers.

“In the CBD we have the Cave Gardens precinct, the library, the Main Corner and the Riddoch Art Gallery – all wonderful attractions,” Ms Martin said.

Ms Martin also proposed further developing the lakes precinct.

“Troy Bell recently spoke of developing our lakes area similarly to other famous lakes districts around the world,” she said.

“We are rich in natural assets but we also need to capitalize on the tourists who visit our city and provide attractions whereby they stay for longer than one day.”

“This is going to require investment from the private sector and also hopefully attract government funding as well to create the necessary infrastructure.

“I believe we need to explore ideas and concepts, create discussion and then make the best decision for our community.

“Tourism has been labelled one of the five economic drivers of the future and we need to get this right and show that Mount Gambier is open for business.”