Fischer casts aspersions on Northam

THE good burghers of Northam may have been pleased with the running of yet another successful Avon Descent last week, but not all who visited the town came away smiling.

Rather than celebrating the event’s 30th year, run despite record low water levels in the Avon River, former deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer launched a scathing attack on Northam and the standard of its tourist accommodation.

Mr Fischer said Northam was an example of a regional town that hadn’t done enough to shore up its own future.

He said regional centres needed to unite and show positive local leadership to succeed.

“This is not about rocket science, it’s about Dubbo or Albany science – it’s about common sense,” Mr Fischer said.

“What annoyed me when I was in parliament was those who have the capacity and choose not to use it.”

Towns with strong natural re-sources needed to capitalise on those features, he said.

“Northam is way behind York and it has a fair bit going for it,” Mr Fischer said. “It’s just one hour from an international airport with a new direct flight to Dubai and it hasn’t got a conference or exhibition centre.”

When Dubbo abattoir operator Fletcher’s International was looking for a site in WA it looked at Northam, Mr Fischer said, but eventually gave the town the “thumbs down” and made a decision to set up in Albany.

“Those who have the resources and make less of that opportunity are an example of why some towns succeed and some don’t,” he said.

“With positive local leadership and community unity, I defy any town not to improve its lot.

“Northam is a dual gauge country so why don’t they have a steam train festival?”

Town of Northam chief executive officer Don Burnett disagreed with Mr Fischer’s comments, claiming the former deputy PM had failed to undertake sufficient research.

“I think possibly he’s a bit ill-informed,” Mr Burnett said.

“His researcher certainly hasn’t talked to us.

“We have, in the past five years, constructed a $1 million visitors’ centre with a cafe and exhibition room that has been very successful.”

According to statistics collected by the Town of Northam about 35,000 people have visited the centre in the past year.

Northam has been a finalist in the top tourism town in WA twice and was awarded the Golden Eye Award by the WA Tourism Commission.

“We won the award [Golden Eye] for the best event, which was our Multicultural Festival,” Mr Burnett said.

“We’ve increased our events from just a couple, including the Avon Descent to include a multi-cultural festival, a vintage car festival and, in October, we’re hosting the motor home rally.”

The launch of Steve Fossett’s successful solo-circumnavigation of the globe in Northam gave the town’s profile a fantastic boost, he said.

The State Government provided funding worth $25,000 to Northam to help the town maximise the tourism potential of the event.

“Tim came through with the centenary train and commented we should have a convention centre,” Mr Burnett said.

“We’ve had discussions about a convention centre and people have said they will come here if we build it, but they want us to finance it. He also made a comment that he’d finance it – so we’ll follow up on that.”

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