National Parks blamed for Mathoura visitor, spending decline.By Zoe McMaugh
Official figures have shown a drop of almost 4000 annual visitors to Mathoura since 2010.
The drop has been attributed to the conversion of local state forests to National Parks.
The Mathoura Visitor and Business Centre’s official figures for the last financial year recorded 24,651 people through the visitor centre.
Centre manager Kalli Crump said it was a long way off the 2009/2010 figures of 28,529 people through the centre.
And it is not just the tourism sector that is suffering.
A Mathoura business person, who did not want to be named, said their business revenue had fallen about 30 per cent since the forest conversion.
‘‘Sales have dropped between 25 and 30 per cent, and all since the forest conversion,’’ the business owner said.
‘‘There is hardly anyone coming into Mathoura to get camping supplies anymore, the camping sections are virtually non-existent.
‘‘The ones who camped out in the forests just aren’t there anymore.’’
Miss Crump, who is part of a family logging business in Mathoura, said the figures show community concerns about the conversion of the forests has become a reality.
A decline in visitors was predicted by loggers and community members during initial National Parks consultation in Mathoura and Deniliquin, and right up until the decision was passed in NSW Parliament.
Loggers and community members argued the predicted tourism benefit was not enough to replace a $70 million timber industry which would be removed from the forests.
The NSW Government at the time predicted 80,000 people would make their way to the area to visit the Murray Valley National Park — incorporating the Moira and Millewa forests — each year.
Miss Crump said the visitor numbers were grossly over exaggerated.
‘‘There just doesn’t appear to be the campers in the bush that we used to get,’’ Miss Crump said.
‘‘The statistics show a drop in visitors and a decrease in business, particularly during traditional holiday periods.
‘‘We thought this would happen, and now here’s our proof. And we feel like it (the decline) is only just starting.’’
Murray Shire Councillor John Pocklington said the figures reaffirm council and the community’s position that tourism would suffer as a result of the conversion.
He said it also proves the conversion was more of a ‘‘political stunt’’.
Fellow councillor Betty Murphy said the closure of the forest had definitely had a huge impact on the town’s economy.
‘‘I live in the main street (of Mathoura) and I’m pretty conscious of the number of people – I would certainly agree with comments about the decline.
‘‘The National Parks’ estimated number of visitors has just not happened.
‘‘The amount of money to be spent around the town has dropped, and the town is quite dependent on the business the industry generates in the town.’’
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