WARRNAMBOOL City Council last night officially opened the floodgates for community comment on how to chart a new course for the floundering Flagstaff Hill Maritime Village.
As the iconic tourist attraction battles to stay afloat after almost 40 years, a bold new proposed master plan has been launched to help it sail into calmer waters.
It suggests radical changes and an investment of about $13 million of mainly government funds plus private enterprise. Last night, councillors passionately debated the issue and agreed there must be a major change to stop it from sinking after recent annual losses of about $400,000.
However, they stressed the draft master plan option canvassed in Saturday’s Standard should not be seen as definitive, but rather an ignition for wide community comment.
“The question is, do we have a transition or do we want to make a quantum leap,” mayor Michael Neoh said.
“I believe public and private investment is the key.
“As I’ve said before, it should be like Federation Square and bring foot traffic in.”
Cr Peter Hulin said it was not imperative the city council remain at the helm and suggested a major motel complex, backpacker accommodation and new interpretative centre could bring in vital income.
“At the moment it’s a millstone around our neck,” he said. “It’s lost its way, but there’s enormous potential as the bookend to the Great Ocean Road experience.”
Cr Peter Sycopoulis said people should not view the proposed master plan as final.
“We haven’t made a decision, this is just a starting point and people should bring their ideas.”
Cr Brian Kelson called for a close examination of Flagstaff Hill’s finances to find ways of making it work better
“Are we getting bang for our buck? I don’t think the answer is to think if we throw $13m at it it will be all right,” he said.
Chief executive Bruce Anson said a separate report would be presented to councillors on the budget and operation figures.
“This draft master plan is about the long-term view. You are talking about the current operation,” he said.
Cr Kylie Gaston urged people to attend site tours on March 12 and 16 at 1pm and March 19 at 7pm.
People have three weeks to comment via the council’s website or by picking up a report from the civic centre.