End of the road for tourist landmark

AFTER 30 years as the gateway to the Jacaranda City, the South Grafton tourist information centre is about to change hands.

The building fronted by an attractive water feature which the Grafton City Council and the local business community worked tirelessly to develop in the latter part of the 1980s will be auctioned on April 12.

The agent handling the sale, McKimms Real Estate, is excited at the prospect.

"We've not handled many businesses under the tourism zoning," said the agent principal Angus McKimm.

"It's actually a flexible zoning which allows a multitude of developments to take place.

"You can have anything from retail to mixed commercial and residential to tourism operations, to fast food and even fine dining."

Mr McKimm said he was aware the building's owner, Clarence Valley Council, had tried to lease the building to a fast food operator, without success.

"I think the council realised private enterprise can do a better job of property management, so they've turned the site over to us," Mr McKimm said.

"Because of the wide variety of possiblities for the site, we're marketing this far and wide across the country," he said.

"We might get someone local or we are likely to get someone from outside the area to buy it."

He said the pond, which he agreed was an attractive feature of the site, was purely cosmetic.

"It could be filled in, which would give a buyer about 34,000sqm to develop," Mr McKimm said. He was not sure what the site might fetch.

"That's why we've put it to auction," he said. "I could mention figures like $900,000 or $1million, but it might be a lot more or a lot less."

Not everyone is excited at the prospect of the sale.

For the former manager of the now defunct Clarence River Tourism Association, Bill Day, who ran the site in its pomp, the announcement of the sale date was a sad day.

He said the council's decision to sell the building and land was a disaster.

"The CRTA managed to develop something that won so many awards we lost count of them," Mr Day said.

"What the unamalgamated councils in the Clarence Valley and local business took decades to develop, this council has destroyed in four years."

Mr Day said the council's decision to move away from a static tourism centre was out of step with what was happening in other areas.

"In the Blue Mountains they're spending a fortune developing visitor information centres," Mr Day said.

"Coffs Harbour abandoned its tourism information centres, but now they're building three they staff themselves.

"I know there's a transition from print to digital distribution of tourism information, but there are still multiple ways to get tourism information to self-drive tourists, which are the life blood of Clarence Valley tourism businesses."

The auction will be held on site at 5.30pm, Thursday, April 12.