The City of Busselton has taken a proactive approach to supporting and sustaining a vibrant local economy through a dedicated business development, events and marketing fund.
Major events are known to generate significant economic activity, create jobs, drive visitation, stimulate infrastructure investment and boost local businesses. For this reason, the WA Government invests in attracting sporting and cultural events to Western Australia through departments including Tourism Western Australia and the Department of Local Government, Sports and Cultural Industries. Local governments have also realised the value of events and visitor attraction, with many putting significant effort into both creating and funding events that attract visitors to their destinations.
Recognising the benefits that attracting visitors can have for communities, more than a decade ago, the City of Busselton developed a strategy aimed at attracting and hosting major events throughout the year, with an aspiration to make the region the events capital of Western Australia. The backbone of this strategy was establishing a differential rating system for the Busselton Central Business District, in order to generate an income stream to grow the City’s event and tourism profile. A new ‘Commercial, Industrial and Holiday Homes’ differential rate, which subsequently expanded to include industrial and commercial zones, came into effect in April 2011.
Establishing a reference group
As part of the strategy, a reference group comprising representatives from the City of Busselton, Busselton and Dunsborough Yallingup Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association made recommendations on how the revenue from the new rate could best be allocated. Between 2011 and 2021, more than $5.5million was directed into marketing and events, returning many times that amount to the local economy.
Examples of some of the events and initiatives supported by the City of Busselton include X-Adventure Dunsborough, Busselton Fringe Festival, the Yallingup Malibu Classic and Ironman, which is supported through a multi-year funding agreement.
Focus on economic, social, environmental and cultural development
The City of Busselton’s Economic Development and Marketing Stream supports and facilitates programs, services and projects that contribute to the City 's economic, social, environmental and cultural development. The framework set through its Economic Development Strategy, outlines the City’s key objectives such as growing the nighttime economy, industry education, innovation and entrepreneurship.
Both economic development initiatives and marketing initiatives are funded through the City’s Commercial, Industrial and Holiday Homes differential rates, to help achieve the City’s objectives. This includes attracting and supporting events, which are a significant economic multiplier for the region, and other initiatives. Sponsorship and funding submissions are assessed by the City of Busselton’s Business Development, Events & Marketing Program (BDEMP) group before endorsement by the CEO.
The City’s financial support of events is returned in the form of robust regional spending, with sponsorships of $900,000 towards 44 events resulting in a direct economic benefit of over $60 million dollars to the region in 2022-2023. Sponsored events attracted more than 100,000 visitors from outside of the region and state.
In 2024, the City of Busselton continues to attract world class events and implement new economic development strategies to support and sustain local business. Events continue to be a strong contributor to the local economy with numbers now back to pre-pandemic levels, with more than 140 events held in the last financial year.
More activity to benefit the local business community
In addition to events, funds are also directed towards economic development grants to support programs and marketing initiatives delivered by local stakeholder groups and business clusters.
City of Busselton Mayor Phill Cronin said structuring funding programs in this way has enabled the local business community greater input into how the differential rate is spent.
“We have seen some great applications come in from the local business community to advance their own innovative ideas that meet the objectives of the Economic Development Strategy.” said Mayor Cronin.
Complementing the funding strategy is a raft of large-scale strategic projects that will further stimulate not only the local, but regional economy for many years to come.
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Photo credit: Triathlon WA