MEDIA RELEASE - Audit report into Destination NSW shows cuts to regional tourism, and no public tran

The NSW Labor Opposition has slammed the NSW Government over a report released this week by the NSW Auditor General which shows funding for major events in regional NSW was slashed by the Government’s key tourism agency, Destination NSW (DNSW), despite going through the state’s worst drought in history.

Major Events in Regional NSW received less than 5 per cent of the nearly $360 million of funding available in the five years to 2018-19.

Last year alone, funding for regional major events nearlyhalved, while Major Events funding for Spectator Sports quadrupled. This left the Berejiklian Barilaro Government funding the lowest percentage of regional events in the last five years – under 3 per cent.

Ms Aitchison said: “It is unforgivable that this Sydney-obsessed government has yet again slashed regional tourism funding, while Regional NSW is facing the worst drought in the state’s history.”

“The regions have since had to endure catastrophic bushfires, flooding and now the tourism-limiting impact of COVID-19.

“The Berejiklian Barilaro Government has missed every single opportunity to help regional tourism operators, once again leaving them to fend for themselves.”

The independent audit report also raised troubling questions over the transparency of decision making, including a failure to meet conflict of interest standards, and deliver to clear KPIs.

Ms Aitchison said: “While they have gutted Regional NSW tourism funding, this government has continued to fund other events without any consideration of KPIs or vale for the public’s taxpayer funds.

The Auditor General found that two of ten major events analysed received $8 million despite “not previously meeting KPIs and receiving relatively low scores in DNSW’s assessment process.”

One contract did not even include any KPIs “because during contract negotiations, the event organiser would not agree to including KPIs”.

Ms Aitchison said: “The Minister has done nothing but undermine tourism in NSW since taking on this position. NSW has endured the worst ever business conditions for tourism, with $65 million cut from the Destination NSW budget in the last two years, and having to navigate the toughest conditions for Regional NSW tourism in decades without a permanent CEO.

“Who is looking after the tourism industry in NSW? And who is standing up for regional tourism in NSW?

“Regional tourism operators have been struggling to keep on staff and hold on to their businesses through drought, fires, floods, COVID-19, and relentless budget cuts. They are right to feel outraged at these findings. While the Minister has been living it up in Sydney, the regional tourism sector has once again been left to fend for itself.”