The McGowan Government has forced out one of its most senior bureaucrats due to concerns over the management of Tourism WA.
Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation director general Stephen Wood will be replaced, with the Premier’s office confirming it related to tourism issues.
It is understood Mr Wood’s departure is a result of the Government’s dissatisfaction with the way the tourism portfolio was being managed.
It is believed those concerns related to dealings with stakeholders, and difficulties with the implementation of the Government’s plan to woo tourists back to WA.
“It has been agreed that Mr Wood would part ways as director general of the department,” Premier Mark McGowan said in a statement.
“Principally, the Government was not satisfied with the way the tourism portfolio was being managed and it was decided the department needed to move in a new direction.
“I thank Mr Wood for his dedicated service in the role and long term commitment to the public sector. I wish him all the best for his future.”
Tourists shun WA
The Department of Jobs was formed last year as an amalgamation of several government agencies, merging Tourism WA and the departments of commerce and state development.
That new structure meant Tourism WA no longer had its own dedicated chief executive.
The situation became particularly contentious when recent figures showed a decline in the number of international tourists visiting WA, which was the only state to experience a drop in numbers in 2017 in the latest international visitor survey.
|States and Territories||Spending ($m)||Growth|
|New South Wales||$10,424||9%|
It is understood Mr Wood’s departure is not related to those tourism figures, but the actual management of the agency.
The figures did however prompt Tourism Council chief executive Evan Hall to voice his concerns at the time about the loss of a dedicated chief executive.
Mr Hall said he was also concerned the Tourism WA CEO position was being filled on a part-time basis by Mr Wood, who had “no prior experience in tourism”.
He also said the “bureaucratisation” of the state’s tourism and education marketing had led to a lack of specialised leadership at the top of Tourism WA.
Stephen Wood’s ‘impossible challenge’
The WA Liberal Party has accused the McGowan Government of using Mr Wood as a scapegoat for its poor decisions.
“This is a disgraceful decision,” Opposition tourism spokeswoman Libby Mettam said.
“Stephen Wood had an impossible challenge to manage not only tourism but the other department of jobs, science and innovation.
“This is exactly the wrong response to the worst set of tourism figures WA has seen and a distraction from the real issue, which is the need for a dedicated CEO for tourism.”
Mr Wood is a long-time public servant and was only appointed to the specific role leading the Department of Jobs, Science, Tourism and Innovation a year ago, when that agency was created.
He will take leave from the end of next week, with an acting director general to be in place until a permanent replacement is found.