The cost of the crossing celebrations has rebounded on local business with Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism failing to pay some of its bills, in some cases for several months.
At least four small businesses the Gazette spoke to had outstanding bills of between several hundred to thousands of dollars. Some date back to work done in May and the owners said BMLOT had been promising they would be paid but kept delaying.
BMLOT chairman, Randall Walker, said he could guarantee all bills would be paid within a fortnight.
“I absolutely, unequivocally, give that undertaking that all invoices will be paid,” he said. “If any small businesses have been inconvenienced in relation to late payments certainly we apologise for that and didn’t want to cause inconvenience to them.
“Generally our payment cycle is the 15th of each month and by the 15th of October BMLOT will have no outstanding invoices.”
Clr Daniel Myles, who is a board member of BMLOT, said problems had arisen because of “the utter lack of support from the federal and state governments” for the crossing bicentenary. He said the money that BMLOT had had to spend to commemorate the “important event” would have an impact on its “budget bottom line”.
Mr Walker said the bicentenary of the crossing of the Mountains had been an anniversary worth celebrating.
“I think that it’s a once in a lifetime, historic milestone and it deserves to be recognised for the significance that it has. What we did is, within the framework of our annual budget, we chose to direct our normal budget expenditure towards the bicentenary. [We] stopped other activities and focussed on the bicentenary which is something that we were happy to do.
“Instead of doing more international marketing or something else, instead of creating a new festival or event, we had the bicentenary festival and events,” Mr Walker said.
And he said it had been a remarkable success.
“When we had Australia’s largest ever civilian flyover... we had 20,000 visitors across 11 official viewing locations... It was on all the main TV news channels — that’s publicity you just can’t buy.”
BMLOT had also supported the program to give 14,000 school students and teachers across 37 schools a free commemorative holey dollar.
But the business owners who have been waiting for payment — none of whom was willing to be identified — were not impressed.
One told the Gazette: “I have been holding off for eight months and it isn’t a small amount. I’m pissed off as much as anybody else is. You take that amount of money out of your daily cash flow and it hurts.”
One small business who had been waiting for four months received a payment over the weekend after making daily phone calls to BMLOT. Another received a part-payment on Monday but is still owed thousands. One business owner had to use his wife’s funds to pay people who had done work for him as part of a BMLOT project.
BMLOT receives funding from a variety of sources, including membership revenue, partnership fees and funding from the State Government, which is generally available from July 1. That money was handed over yesterday, by Tourism Minister George Souris, who presented BMLOT with $150,000 in Destination NSW funding.