Tourism chief resigns post

WARWICK Tourism and Events board chairman Greg Newey has moved to allay concerns about the future of major local events like the Jumpers and Jazz Festival in the wake of the shock resignation yesterday of chief executive officer Bev Marston.

Mrs Marston forwarded her two-paragraph letter to board members early yesterday afternoon, in which said it was “with some regret” that she would leave the role.

Her decision is understood to be related to continued uncertainty over the future of WTE as a major review of tourism promotional bodies in the region drags on.

Warwick Tourism and Events (WTE) is funded by the Southern Downs Regional Council but operates as an arm's length company.

Mrs Martson will formally leave the role on October 30, the Saturday of the Warwick Rodeo weekend, after committing herself to seeing through the Friday night Mardi Gras and Saturday's street parade and markets.

She was unavailable for comment yesterday, but Mr Newey said he was extremely disappointed to learn of Mrs Marston's decision, praising her for doing a “thorough and very professional job”.

“I had a very good working relationship with Bev, she was very switched-on, but the tragedy of the situation is that we have a lost a very capable person due to the de-stabilising effect the council's review on our organisation,” Mr Newey said.

“This process has been going on for some months and obviously anyone in a role like Bev's needs to have job security – we'd renewed her contract but on the basis of council deciding to keep WTE in place.

“It's understandable she's chosen to seek employment elsewhere and it's a great loss to our community.”

Mr Newey said he believed Jumpers and Jazz would happen again next year, but said it would be a huge job for Warwick Art Gallery director Karina Devine, the festival's other driving force, to take on alone.

He also said the continued uncertainty over WTE's future would hamper efforts to replace Mrs Marston but said the issue would be discussed at the next board meeting.

He declined to speculate on the possible disbandment of WTE altogether, saying it would be council's decision.

During her tenure since 2007 Mrs Marston was at the centre of controversy over changes to the location of the Rodeo Mardi Gras event on the Friday night of the October Rose and Rodeo Festival in the past two years.

She is understood to have secured a similar role in Western Australia.

Her husband Steve has run Warwick Country Tours in recent times and has been involved with the Southern Downs Steam Railway.

Mayor Ron Bellingham said the future of WTE would be decided at the board meeting due next week.

“I think Warwick Tourism and Events has been a very successful entity in its time but I understand the difficulty staff have had during this time of uncertainty (with the tourism restructure),” Cr Bellingham said.

“I am sorry to see (Bev) go and I wish her and Steve all the best of luck.”

No timeframe has yet been set for a final decision on a new tourism marketing structure for the region, with responsibilities and funding currently split between a myriad of Warwick and Stanthorpe-based entities.

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