Town Summit Success

Town Summit

The Merimbula Town Summit was held on Friday 19 and Saturday 20 February at Merimbula RSL and was hailed as a great success. Over 120 people attended over the 2 days, with a wide cross section of attendees from Community Groups, Property Owners, Local Business owners, Government Agencies and all 3 levels of Government. Summit facilitator Jo Kelly from People, Place and Partnership said “It is extremely rare to have all 3 levels of Government in a room at an event like this”.

The event opened on Friday morning with a welcome speech from Chamber President Nigel Ayling who welcomed everyone to what he called a landmark event for Merimbula and said that after a horrendous year this event provided an opportunity for a new start for the town. He said “For a community to move forward, we need to be unified, we need to collaborate and come up with the best solutions available. There are a lot of smart people in the room so let’s draw on each others experience and wisdom and see what we can learn from each other.”

Shane Fitzsimmons, the Commissioner for Resilience NSW addressed the attendees via video and said ”He would like to commend everyone to coming together for this important summit” and suggested that everyone “utilises the next 2 day to share insights, thoughts, feelings and concerns about the challenges of the last 18 months and discuss where we are heading in the months and years ahead.”

Their was a Think Tank session at the start of the day, calling for people to provide some BIG Ideas for the town, which would get work shopped later in the day.

Dales Whytes from Business Connect said ” Understanding the long term history of Merimbula and its impact on the community, it’s what shapes what we see today”

The first one concentrated on “visitors” to Merimbula which includes all visitors to town, not just tourists and what each groups need where. The second workshop concentrated on the town centre, the infrastructure, what was there, what was missing, and what the needs were for visitors. The third one was around the personality of the town, it’s identity, branding, how visitors perceived it and saw it. The common response from this workshop was that Merimbula lacked a clear identity, and really needed to create branding that represented the town.

The last session on Friday was a discussion panel with all 3 levels of Government represented. Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick joined State Member Andrew Constance and Federal Member Kristy McBain as the discussed a number of issues and talked about how they could support the Chamber and the Merimbula community.

Ms McBain said the first step was to get community consultation and get everyone to agree on what needed to be done, so it was great to see such a wide cross section of people in the room. Mr Constance said that it was important to clarify the priorities and that a 10 point action plan was an important for Government so they could see where the priorities of the community were. When questioned about which level of Government should the Chamber go to first, Mr Fitzpatrick said that everything should start at Local Government so the Chamber President said he would deliver the 10 point action plan to Council shortly.

Liam Vernon, Director of Hucove spoke about the involvement with Government and said “It’s important to interact with the government, they can listen, understand, and assist to help achieve what we aim to create.”

The summit continued on Saturday morning with some new attendees who didn’t attend on Friday. The focus was on bringing all the ideas and learnings together to consolidate the key points, from the workshops. The ideas and concepts were whittled down in to key areas, with actions added to each one.

These will form part of the action plan, which will then be implemented over the next 12-18 months. As the plan began to develop and the summit started to close, Mr Ayling explained “It’s great that we have been able to come together as a community and agree on a plan going forward, but now it is up to you everyone in the room, to put their hand up and agree to help be part of the process moving forward.” He referred to a quote by the great Ghandi which simply states, You must BE the change you want to see in the World.

A number of attendees were obviously inspired by the event and more than 20 people agreed to become part of the Leadership committee who will work with the Chamber to play their part in the implementation of the action plan.

Mr Ayling said “It’s a very exciting time for Merimbula and we are looking forward to the future”.

The Merimbula Town Summit was possible thanks to grants from the Mumbulla Foundation and the Merimbula RSL Club Grants program.