For our Anzac Day long weekend I want to play a game of hypotheticals. Let’s pretend I have a spare $2 million of loose change sitting in Council’s coffers and I am struggling to work out what to do with it. Maybe we could distribute the cash to our residents? Everyone could pocket $48.81 and do with it as they wish. It doesn’t seem like a lot for each person but better than a poke in the eye with a stick. We could build some new infrastructure or even seal some roads in our rural or village areas. $2 million would buy about 2 kilometres of new road. Sounds great for the people who live along that road but it doesn’t sound like it will do a lot for the greater good of the overall community and it probably doesn’t inject a lot into our economy.

How about a festival? They seem to be popping up all over the country and from a public perspective they seem to be very popular. Festivals can cost a lot to host and they can take a number of years to build up but is it a reasonable way to spend $2 million? Take the example of the Tamworth Country Music Festival. A fantastic event for Tamworth and an event that has a gross cost of $2.5 million and a net cost of $1.6 million annually for Tamworth Regional Council. The net cost of $1.6 million is funded from ratepayers each year and Tamworth Regional Council has to budget for this cost annually. Estimations for the TCMF are that Tamworth receives 50,000 unique visitors over the ten days of the festival and, on average people stay 3.5 nights when they visit the festival. On our estimates of an average spend of an overnight visitor at $132 per night, these figures would put the injection into their economy at $23 million but Tamworth’s figures are closer to a $50 million injection. Keep in mind that the first TCMF was held in 1973 and consisted of a single weekend event. This raises an interesting question. Councils have to be solvent. An injection of $50 million into a local economy sounds like a wonderful thing but what if it meant that a local Council was technically insolvent? The community would be the beneficiary but what of the Council? Alternatively take my first idea on how to spend my spare $2 million. Instead of paying every man, woman and child in our community $48.81 what if we asked every person to contribute $48.81 to Council to allow a festival to be held that would inject $50 million into the economy. Surely that would benefit residents to the tune of $1,220.25 each so the $48.81 contribution to Council to allow it to remain solvent would be worthwhile. Of course this doesn’t take into account the uneven distribution of the $50 million. The motels and hospitality providers would presumably be the main beneficiaries but it is hard to see pensioners receiving an additional cash injection from such a festival.

On a slightly smaller scale, the very successful Elvis Festival that is held in Parkes each January is another example of a great cash injection into the economy. Parkes Shire Council is injecting $350,000 into their Festival next year (when it will be 80 years since Elvis was born) and, based on previous years, they hope to have 15,000 unique visitors in attendance over the five days of the Festival. I am guessing an average stay per visitor of three days so the economic injection approaches $6 million but Elvis fans like to spend big so the figure Parkes Shire Council typically quote is around $8 million as an injection. In similar fashion to the TCMF, the Elvis Festival was started by a group of passionate Elvis fans as a one night event attracting a few hundred people. That was in 1993.

Back to my $2 million. I am keen to spend it for the greater good of Dubbo. What else can I do? What about if I had a tiered theatre and used the money to put on world-class theatre for people in the region throughout the entire year. If 50 such shows were put on with each show being subsidised to the tune of $40,000 for the first 1,000 tickets for attendees outside the Dubbo LGA, that would bring 50,000 people to our LGA for at least one night each and inject $6.6 million into the economy but, more importantly, spread out the visitation across the entire year. That would allow moteliers and hospitality providers a better chance to capitalise on the flow of people rather than have all 50,000 people descend on the City over a short period of time.

What about the idea of having a major tourist attraction that attracted 250,000 visitors to a City each and every year with each visitor staying for an average of 1.5 nights? That would drop close to $50 million into our economy. Maybe a world-class Zoo would fit the bill – but I don’t think I could build and run that for my $2 million so I will have to forget that one.

It sounds ridiculous but it is a tough problem. My $2 million is burning a hole in my wallet but I just can’t decide the best way to spend it to maximise the benefit to a City. Festivals are fantastic but take time to grow organically and sometimes all-year visitation can be of greater benefit to a City. As with so many things related to a local Council, there is no obvious answer.

Tell me how you would spend $2 million of public money to boost the local economy at

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