Byron pursuing tourism research on the cheap

By MEGAN KINNINMENT

STUDENT research could form the backbone of Byron Shire Council's tourism management plan under a move by the council to form a partnership with Southern Cross University.

The council this week voted to continue negotiations with SCU to develop a tourism strategy for the shire, a plan which could see students used as de facto consultants in a cost-cutting exercise.

"This is research we would normally have to pay for," Cr Jan Barham said.

"Students could do research projects on our exciting and contentious issues."

Student research from SCU is already informing council policy, with a PhD paper by SCU student Meredith Lawrence on holiday accommodation in Byron Bay often referenced this week as the council defines its new draft Byron Bay, Ewingsdale and Suffolk Park Local Environment Plan.

"(Ms Lawrence's research) didn't cost the council a cent and it was the best ever produced," Cr Richard Staples said.

However, Cr John Lazaras yesterday warned against relying on the university's tourism research.

"The SCU tourism department is basically there to promote tourism and that will influence the work they do for us," Cr Lazarus said. "There is an inherent bias there.

"Depending on the level of expertise, I'm fine with using a student's data, but policy direction should come from the council itself."



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