ONE of Warrnambool’s leading retailers has called for unity following a fortnight of heated debate over a proposed marketing levy spearheaded by Commerce Warrnambool.
Ponting’s Hardware proprietor Raelene Ponting said while she was opposed to the levy, she believed both Commerce Warrnambool and the newly-formed Warrnambool Traders Action Group needed to sit down and discuss the matter before it divided the business community further.
She said the levy was a rushed and ill-founded proposal and claimed many businesses had been left fuming by a lack of consultation.
“In principle, I agree with the whole Commerce Warrnambool idea but this levy hasn’t been thought out properly,” Mrs Ponting said yesterday.
“Having a funding model connected to rates is wrong. Some businesses will have to pay substantial amounts but receive little benefit, while others will only have to pay a small amount and get a bigger share. I’ve spoken to a lot of business owners and they agree that the consultation about this levy has been poor.
“Why do we need to rush this levy when it will cost businesses a sizeable amount of money?”
Mrs Ponting’s comments follow last week’s vote by a majority of Warrnambool City councillors to put the rates-subsidised program out for public feedback.
Developed by lobby group Commerce Warrnambool, the Business District Improvement Program would result in more than 1000 businesses paying a special levy through council rates which will bankroll a comprehensive marketing strategy.
Commerce Warrnambool says the levy will on average cost most businesses between $300 to $500 per annum, with very few operators paying more than $5000 each year.
An organisation opposing the levy, Warrnambool Traders Action Group, was formed last week with a number of businesses concerned about the financial impact on their respective operations.
Mrs Ponting said Commerce Warrnambool’s contention that more people from the wider Western District needed to be attracted via a cross-media marketing campaign was flawed.
“The city council already has a business department and I feel having Commerce Warrnambool doing its own marketing would just be an unnecessary double-up,” she said.
“They (Commerce Warr-nambool) need to better explain what’s involved instead of just rushing this proposal through.”
None of the seven city councillors have publicly endorsed the Commerce Warrnambool proposal as yet, only voting to put it out for public comment, although Cr Brian Kelson has been an outspoken opponent of the levy.
Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh endorsed the concept of a business-only ballot, which he described as a “mini-referendum” on the levy matter focused solely on the commercial and industrial sector.
The concept is yet to be debated by councillors.
Retail figures publicly supporting the levy include Optus Shop franchisee Ellie Read, Warrnambool KFC franchisee Marie Bird and Best Western Tudor Motor Inn owner Barbara Porter.
Business figures publicly opposed to the plan include Piccolo Restaurant co-owner Amanda Lowen, $2 Plus Shop owner-manager Stuart Trotman, House Homewares operator Lyn Savage and Roberts One Real Estate principal Danny Roberts.