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Port Lincoln’s Tunarama festival to bounce back

Tunarama will return to Port Lincoln under new leadership after being cancelled – but there are likely to be changes.

Mar 28, 2024, updated Mar 28, 2024
The Tuna Toss is the most popular event at Port Lincoln's Tunarama Festival. Photo: Fran Solly

The Tuna Toss is the most popular event at Port Lincoln's Tunarama Festival. Photo: Fran Solly

Port Lincoln Council Mayor Diana Mislov said “no one was more upset” than her when the iconic festival was cancelled, with the volunteer committee blaming Covid and other factors.

The community-led not for profit organisation announced last July that the 60-year-old event would not run in 2024 – a decision which Port Lincoln Mayor Diana Mislov told InDaily was not run past the council.

“Their decision to wind it up was not one that was discussed or put back to community, or even taken to council as an option to continue,” Mislov said.

“With the greatest of respect to that Tunarama committee, their decision to wind it up was something perhaps they could have come to community and to council and talked about before taking that approach.

“Council and the community itself would have rallied around to assist to continue the festival.”

While Mislov confirmed the festival would return, she said it was unlikely to be before 2026 at this stage.

The 2021 annual statement of Port Lincoln Tunarama Incorporated, the registered charity that ran the event, showed their total annual income as $39,000, while their costs in the same period reached $42,000. At that time the group had an estimated ten volunteers running the festival.

The mayor of Port Lincoln confirmed the council is in the process of planning a revitalised Tunarama festival. Photo: Fran Solly

Mislov said Port Lincoln Council approached organisers once the cancellation was announced, seeking to purchase the festival’s intellectual property rights.

The council has now appointed regional tourism and events specialist Tilma Group to prepare a business plan for a new look Tunarama festival, in collaboration with the council’s Tourism and Economic Development team.

“This is an opportunity now for council to… invest some of ratepayers’ money in doing a really good thorough consultation process, with not just community but stakeholders, sponsors, the wider South Australian Tourism Commission and other interested parties,” Mislov said.

The mayor said the council was asking the public to help decide what the “best attributes of Tunarama” were, and what parts of the festival might be dropped.

“The opportunity is there for council to do I guess what the little volunteer committee may not have had the time or the energy [to do],” she said.

The new-look festival may have more of a focus on food and wine and local music while retaining aspects of the original festival, such as the iconic tuna toss.

“There’s all sorts of opportunity, we really want to showcase the best of Port Lincoln and Southern Eyre Peninsula,” Mislov said.

Mislov said she was grateful for the work the festival volunteers had done in past years.

“There’s a lot of fatigue in volunteers; they do so much, they don’t receive financial reward, they are often met with other volunteer organisations that are competing for the same sponsorship dollar,” she said.

Community consultation has now opened and runs until April 9.

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