Marketing is all about image and it may be up to the ratepayers to choose whether dairying, cheese and bucolic scenes of cows grazing best fits the Bega Valley Shire or is it an image of the coast, tourism and sapphire blue seas that would have more cachet?
Councillor Kristy McBain believes the idea of a name change from the Bega Valley Shire to the Sapphire Coast Shire is worth exploring which ultimately could be a question asked of ratepayers at a poll.
During questions without notice at council’s January 16 meeting, Cr McBain asked for a report regarding rebranding of the Bega Valley Shire to the Sapphire Coast Council. She asked that the report include financial data and the effectiveness of rebranding in line with the soon to be released communications strategy.
The question was taken on notice by group manager community and relationships, Leanne Barnes and the finance manager, Lucas Scarpin.
The Bega Valley Shire Council is one of few when it comes to its name.
It shares a name with one town in the shire whereas most other NSW regional and rural councils have chosen a generic name – such as Eurobodalla, Snowy Mountains, Shoalhaven, Shellharbour, and Wingecarribee. Another exception is the Bombala Shire Council but the town of Bombala is the shire’s only urban area unlike the BVSC which has four urban centres, Merimbula, Eden Bega and Bermagui.
The idea of the name Sapphire Coast Shire was suggested by the Imlay Shire Council pre amalgamation in 1980 as the name for the newly minted amalgamated shire.
Over the years Merimbula has had numerous conversations about changing the name to the Sapphire Coast Shire because of its tourism marketability and a perception that it more accurately represented where the majority of the residents live.
In July 2003 the Merimbula Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism (as it was known then) recommended to the council that it should put the name change to the voters at the 2004 council elections.
It was swiftly rejected. In a News Weekly report published August 6, 2003, Cr Tony Allen was reported as saying: “We’ve got more important things to do than worry about a name change.”
Cr Bill Taylor said the name change didn’t deserve the prominence it had been given. He said 50 million branded items from Bega Cheese were sold worldwide every year.
”If that’s not an advertising campaign that is working I don’t know what is,” he said.
Greens councillor Keith Hughes said: “Knock it on the head” and council did exactly that.
The aforementioned councillors are members of today’s council and are unlikely to have changed their opinion over the intervening years.
Cr McBain told the News Weekly it was a question posed to council candidates at the Meet the Candidates night prior to the September 2012 elections that prompted her to ask the question of the council.
“The last question of the night was, ‘What about changing council’s name to the Sapphire Coast Shire?’ It’s been in the back of my mind and I’ve had a look around – it’s not a new idea, it’s been kicking around for 30 years. The question I put to council basically was to establish what the costs would be as we want to be financially responsible for ratepayers’ money.
“I also think there is an emotional value attached to the name change which can’t be measured. Bega identifies itself as the heart of the Sapphire Coast, Bermagui is the jewel of the Sapphire Coast. It seems to me that the name Sapphire Coast Council is more emotive than the Bega Valley Shire Council.
“We are trying to attract businesses; we are trying to attract industry and we are trying to attract professionals and trying to attract bigger airlines.
“From my point of view, Sapphire Coast is far more emotive than Bega Valley,” Cr McBain said.
Asked what image the name Bega Valley conjured up for her, Cr McBain said rolling green hills (though conceded that was not the colour at the moment).
“We shouldn’t detract from that as it is a huge part of our shire as well, but I’m not sure it encompasses the whole shire.”
Cr McBain said she would like to gauge community sentiment on her proposal.
“I would like to know what do the residents identify with – do they identify with the Bega Valley, do they identify with the Sapphire Coast; do they want to change the name or do they not want to change.”
Asked how she would gauge that without going to a poll, Cr McBain said through council’s social media, via Facebook and council’s website and through the print media.
“However while the question’s out there and we measure the sentiment for it, there is a Local Government review taking place at the moment with possible changes to council’s boundary. Given that it may not be prudent to take any action until the review has taken place and we find out if the boundaries are going to remain the same for this shire.”