KI visitor centre discussions continue at council

CLOSED DOWN: The Kangaroo Island Visitor Information Centre remains closed due to a lack of funding.
CLOSED DOWN: The Kangaroo Island Visitor Information Centre remains closed due to a lack of funding.

The fate of the Kangaroo Island Visitor Information Centre dominated discussion at April's meeting of the KI Council.

Tourism KI has closed the visitor information centre at Penneshaw due to a lack of funding.

TKI chairman Pierre Gregor held a special networking session last Thursday to explain the current situation. 

Mayor Michael Pengilly convened a special workshop prior to Tuesday's council meeting to discuss the different options, ranging from not doing anything to funding TKI with the $140,000 it was asking for.

But it was decided at the main meeting that in the short term, that the council would work with staff, and possibly volunteers, to have brochures and other items available at the Penneshaw Community Business Centre.

The vote was 5-1 with clr Leeza Irwin unsuccessfully putting up her own proposals to reopen the visitor centre.

Mr Pengilly pointed out that the council had just announced it was making $1.5 million in savings in the budget and could not afford to the funds to keep the centre open.

All the councillors and mayor wanted an immediate service available as school holidays had already started in the eastern states, and this stop-gap measure will continue through the financial year.

In the longer term, the council agreed to look for permanent solutions, including working with the Department for Environment and Water to restaff the centre, along with council and TKI staff. 

Another option would to put the centre operation out to tender.

The council owns visitor centre building at Penneshaw, providing it to TKI free of charge and also does the maintenance on the building and cleans the toilets.

The council was told that about 38,000 people went through the centre a year, but was also told that annual depreciation on the building was about $40,000 a year.

A wide range of options were canvassed at the workshop prior to the main meeting with mayor saying he was waking up night with various ideas.

He again said the visitor centre should not be allowed to close as it was not a good look for the Island.

Clr Leeza Irwin, a TKI board member, however voiced her concern at the feasibility of the Penneshaw Community Business Centre solution in the short term, given it was not open seven days a week.

She said visitors would still go to the visitor centre building and there was a lack of parking and space at the PCBC that also houses the town's post office.

She unsuccessfully put up two motions, firstly for a comprehensive review into the operation of the centre using the KI Comissioner and secondly to simply provide the $140,000 that TKI was asking for, allowing them to go through the transition.

Clr Ken Liu on the other hand argued the council should do nothing and the Island did not need a physical visitor centre.

It was pointed out that TKI could do its own review with the commissioner.

Regardless, there will be ongoing council discussion on the centre with the councilllors' April 30 informal gathering being the next opportunity.

The VIC crisis is diverting attention away from the promised cruise ship discussion that was to have taken place after this the busiest cruise season.

The council is not able to collect a levy from cruise ship passengers because they get off on the Penneshaw wharf that is owned by the State Government.

Mr Pengilly at Tuesday's meeting recognised the correspondence of Sara Hourez on the subject of the cruise ships and said that discussion still needed to happen.

It was agreed that the April 30 informal gathering was too busy already and so the cruise ship discussion would likely happen next month. 

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