The imminent closure of the Urunga Visitor Information Centre has many of its long-time volunteers concerned their enormous pool of local knowledge will be lost.
The current site on the Old Pacific Highway is due to be leased to a new tenant as a cafe and possible outlet for tourist information pamphlets.
Volunteers fear this arrangement will not benefit CBD businesses with whom it is in direct economic competition.
“Urunga is the gateway to the shire and over the years we have directed thousands of people to Bellingen and Dorrigo,” VIC volunteer David Boatfield said.
“When this centre closes, we need to have a presence in town because there are all the visitors from the caravan park and the hotel who want to know what to do and where to go.”
Betty Frost has been a volunteer at the centre from Day One 20 years ago and she believes having a presence somewhere is vital.
“This has been a great facility … we still need to have a Visitor Information Centre, and if it can’t be here then why not in town,” Betty said.
Mr Boatfield has suggested the old bank site on the corner of Bowra and Bonville streets would be the perfect new venue.
The site has been used as a pop-up gallery over the last four months with the blessing of Bellingen Shire Council (who own the building) and the support of the Urunga Mylestom Chamber of Commerce (UMCC).
Chamber President Steve Allan said the chamber had been auspicing the arts space since it ‘popped-up’.
“We think it is a very positive thing and would love to see it succeed … the space had been vacant for quite some time and the chamber is pleased to see it being used,” Mr Allan said.
“At that time there was no suggestion of it as a possible home for the VIC.”
Bellingen Shire councillors Steve Jenkins and Garry Carter are supportive of the VIC volunteers’ bid for the old bank site and have lodged a motion to be debated at next Wednesday’s monthly council meeting.
“This space in the Urunga CBD is close to businesses and all the other town facilities – it is a good way to encourage people to spend more time, and money, in the area.
“The old bank site is council-owned and the council should allow the VIC to occupy it for their ongoing activities.”
Cr Jenkins said he also believed Local Government should “do its utmost to support volunteers in the community”.
“The work done by these volunteers here benefits the whole shire.”
What was previously the veterinary surgery, which adjoins the old bank, is another site that has been mooted for the VIC.