Concerns over the cost of Ceduna’s Oysterfest weekend have been raised among Ceduna councillors prompting a detailed cost-analysis discussion.
The Ceduna District Council is an Oysterfest event partner and at last month’s council meeting councillor Geoff Ryan proposed council look into how costs could be lowered and streamlining the event.
“I’m not anti-Oysterfest, but I want to get the most value for our ratepayers, which is why I put it out there to the councillors,” he said.
“It cost $113,000 to run the event last year including staff wages and we are not getting enough sponsorship coming through, plus we lost $20,000 when BP and Chevron pulled out, so I wonder how we can boost sponsorship money which would help reduce council and ratepayers costs.
“The cost to run the event includes workers who are setting up and dismantling the area for a few weeks, meaning they can’t do other works around the district.”
Mr Ryan said he could see the benefits of Oysterfest as a community event and if residents were still in favour of the event he would be happy to see it continue.
Oysterfest organiser Annette Plane said the 2017 event was deemed a success and this year would build on that.
“People liked the changes to the food and wine area, with the outdoor stages and extra shaded areas – the down part was to do with the amusement area and the supplier had some difficulties and could not get all the rides, so that was the biggest area of complaint,” Ms Plane said.
“The weather was kind, people had a good time and it was a success.
“For this year we will be taking the things people liked and improving on a few areas, such as the arts and craft area inside the McEvoy Marquee.”
Ms Plane said she understood costs were always a concern but what the event brought to the town outweighed the figure spent.
The final cost to council was $67,904 last year, which she said excluded staff wages that would be paid regardless.
It was calculated that Oysterfest costs about $25 per council rate notice.
“Over the past three or four years the final cost to council has on average been between $50,000 and $70,000, however it has been independently calculated by the South Australia Tourism Commission that Oysterfest brings in at least $1.5 million in direct benefit to the local economy,” Ms Plane said.
“Some would think the $25 per rate assessment is not worth it, some would think it is worth more.
“Council is wary of costs but it will not charge an entry fee as that was what the event was founded on – unless there is no other option.”
She said that $1.5m figure was based on the weekend and did not include secondary impact such as a person enjoying their time at Oysterfest and deciding to return to the town at a later date.
Ceduna mayor Allan Suter said Oysterfest was a key component of the town’s tourism sector, which is a growing job provider.
“Tourism has got the best potential for growth in employment and we need to foster that,” he said.
“Overall, the will is there to continue to support Oysterfest.”
Councillor Lynton Brown is also the owner of Shelly Beach Caravan Park, an Oysterfest sponsor, and said what it offered Ceduna was worth more than the money put in.
“Ceduna doesn’t have an agricultural show and every town needs a community event which gives them pride in what they do,” he said.
“From a councillor point of view, we want to see Ceduna in a good light and this event does that, it is promoted all over Australia and the world, and it is good for the people.
“When Oysterfest started it was about promoting the oyster industry to the country and the world and we have come a long way.”
He said his business did not experience a spike in trade purely from Oysterfest as that time of year was busy regardless but the benefits were there.
For this year we will be taking the things people liked and improving on a few areas, such as the arts and craft area inside the McEvoy Marquee.Oysterfest organiser Annette Plane
Ms Plane said there may have been a community disconnect in the staging of the event in recent years.
“Whereas previously we could have offset costs with volunteer labour and fundraisers, we just don’t have that anymore,” she said.
“Volunteer regulations are tighter these days and is not an area we can compromise, we have to make sure people can do it in a safe manner.
“Before it was a council-run event people felt a community obligation to support and put some money in, then there was a push for larger corporate organisations to get involved with fundraising to pick up smaller amounts but people don’t have time to run fundraisers and seem to think it is a council responsibility, so it kind of lost the community connection, although people still love the event and see the benefit of it.”
In addition to volunteer numbers, she said more sponsorship would help offset costs.
“Sponsorship is always something which helps council and we have some great supporters who have been involved for a number of years, such as the Ceduna Foreshore Hotel,” she said.
“Every little bit helps and we have sponsorship packages starting at $100.”
Mr Suter said there would be a greater focus on attracting sponsorship for the 2018 event.
Ms Plane said the council would continue to support Oysterfest for as long as it was seen as a community benefit.
“When we do our post-event survey, one question we ask is if Oysterfest brings the community together and that rating has been going up in recent years; another is if they agree Oysterfest is getting too commercial and that gets a negative response, so people see it as a good event.
“If that was reversing I doubt it would get support from council.”