Mattara to go ahead with or without council funds

ATTEMPTS to overhaul the city’s Mattara Festival to encourage tourism were turned on their head last night, after several Newcastle councillors called for a review of tourism policy.

Kim Hillery and Leanne McKenzie from the festival committee briefed councillors and blasted the controversial reforms proposed by the council’s Tourism and Economic Development Unit.

The council had wanted to move the festival to January and ditch the traditional street parade.

It had proposed funding the event only if the committee agreed to specific reforms.

Ms Hillery said Mattara would go ahead in September and October without financial support from the council.

‘‘The committee would like it noted that Mattara is a community festival that is designed for the people of Newcastle and the Hunter,’’ Ms Hillery said.

‘‘It is not designed to be a tourism event.’’

It was the second time in a week the council’s Tourism and Economic Development Unit had copped criticism for attempting to overhaul a popular community program.

The Newcastle Herald revealed last week that staff working for Livesites were told their contracts would not be renewed, and that the events program would be administered by the Newcastle Now business association.

Cr Graham Boyd suggested the council needed to assess ‘‘what the hell we’re doing in tourism and development’’.

‘‘This is a classic case of confusing tourism ... and a community event,’’ Cr Boyd said.

‘‘You can’t build tourism and development on the back of a community event.’’

Cr Sharon Claydon said the council needed to have ‘‘a broader policy discussion’’ about the Tourism and Economic Development Unit.

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