REGION - Northern Grampians Shire Council has taken a front foot approach to ensuring tourism remains a top priority for the region.
Council is set to discuss a recommendation next week from the Project Control Group working on the Stawell Gold Mines Future Possibilities Feasibility Study, which suggests plans to develop the Stawell Gold Mines site as a tourist destination when mining ceases, should not proceed.
Shire chief executive officer Justine Linley said when the report on the issue was first released, it did cause some confusion within the tourism sector.
"Initial reports just didn't seem to come across the right way, almost saying we weren't going to promote tourism in the Northern Grampians," Mrs Linley said.
However, council has been quick to get on the front foot and assure operators that tourism remains a high priority.
Director Marketing and Community Development, Jim Nolan, said the issue was raised as part of the Stawell Gold Mines Future Possibilities Feasibility Study and was in no way related to the region's tourism in general.
"There are five streams that the Project Control Group is investigating in relation to the possible future use of the Stawell Gold Mine site," Mr Nolan said.
"One of the most topical of those streams is tourism. The Project Control Group has decided that council should not proceed further on development tourism product at the mine site, as the case for a tourism product is very weak.
"Council will be presented with a recommendation at next week's meeting, that it proceed with investigations into the other streams and not pursue the tourism product."
Mr Nolan said the Project Control Group had recognised that the strength areas were in industry, education, waste and commercial recreation.
He said there was still a strong case for each of these streams and therefore, further investigations would be carried out.
Mr Nolan said the most important aspect of the project was to identify viable alternative industry use for the Stawell Gold Mine site, post closure, which will result in job creation and provide stimulus for the local economy.
"It aims to identify and prepare plans for one, or several, concepts that are viable, will result in the creation of jobs, will support the growth or retention of the population, will provide a strong return on investment and are imminently implementable," he said.
Mr Nolan said all investigations led the Project Control Group to believe tourism did not fit into this criteria.
"As a result of the review of the consultants' initial reports, all potential projects were recommended to proceed to the next stage of review, with the exception of the tourism suite of products," he said.
"The tourism consultant, Thor Lyster from AEC, provided an extensive report regarding the tourism options for the Stawell Gold Mine site, both above ground and underground. The Project Control Group decided unanimously that there was little probability that any tourism product would prove to be viable."
Shire chief executive officer Justine Linley said the community needed to be clear that development of some kind would take place at the mine site following closure.
"Money has been set aside in the budget for one of several of these projects to proceed," Mrs Linley said.
"Taking tourism out of the equation doesn't mean something won't happen at the site, it just means council won't be spending money on product that is seen as weak or not viable.
"Tourism was identified as not being a viable option, but only in relation to the mine site and only on the basis of the product potential being weak."
Mrs Linley said it had been identified that a lot of money would need to be spent on the site to develop a tourism product, for little return.
"That would mean someone would need to subsidise it and that someone would be the ratepayers," she said.
"We are not prepared to go down that path."
The consultants will continue with their analysis and prepare a final report for the Project Control Group, which is due on December 13.
The Project Control Group will then review the findings and provide further recommendations to council.