Competition row

Jackson Lavell-LeeBusselton Dunsborough Times

Critics of the City of Busselton’s proposed performing arts and conference centre development have this week slammed the project for competing with local family-owned businesses.

Last week the Times reported Hilton developers had been led to believe the Busselton Entertainment Arts Cultural Hub would be developed with conference facilities helping to generate room revenue for the nearby hotel.

Action Group spokesman Gordon Bleechmore said the City had a track record of competing with private business.

“The City has experience in treading on people’s toes in the fitness arena when it expanded their offering at the Geographe Leisure Centre and upset a lot of private businesses,” he said.

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“Local governments shouldn’t be competing with local business and ratepayers.

“Both Geographe Bayview Resort and the Esplanade Hotel have recently renovated to cater for larger conferences and they will be in direct competition with the BEACH.”

However, the Times understands Geographe Bayview Resort has stalled plans to develop a modern conference facility in the face of the COVID-19 recession and restrictions.

City of Busselton chief executive Mike Archer said Hilton developers were aware that a performing arts and convention centre was proposed for the vacant site in the cultural precinct but no ratepayer money had been used to coerce the deal.

“No ratepayer money has been used to lock in any deal between the City and the Hilton developers and to suggest such a thing is disingenuous,” he said.

“The City receives numerous requests each year from potential developers to provide information on major projects earmarked for the region.

“These discussions are part of any developer’s due diligence. Yes, the City has briefed the Hilton developer on major projects in the pipeline including CBD activation plans, continuation of the foreshore upgrade, the airport upgrade, expansion of the Busselton Jetty Underwater Observatory and of course the new performing arts and convention centre.”

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said moving forward with the project “defies belief” considering its success would be at the expense of other local tourism businesses.

“It defies belief that this project is even being contemplated given its forecast operating losses over the coming years and the fact that any measurable success will come at the expense of private businesses such as the Bayview Geographe Resort who have already invested considerably in such a facility,” she said.

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