Tour backflip

WILLOW Court’s popular haunted asylum tours are back on, just three weeks after they were controversially stopped by the Derwent Valley Council due to concerns about tours not being respectful and ethical in their interpretation.

Council voted unanimously at its August meeting to stop all tours by September 26, pending the finalisation of Ethical Principles and Guidelines, which form part of the draft Willow Court Heritage Interpretation Plan.

The decision shocked Tasmania’s Most Haunted tour operator Sharmaine Mansfield who was told to close down, along with other operators. As a result she lost three weeks of business and had to cancel several bookings. But at the September 29 meeting of council, four weeks after deciding to shut down tours, council approved the draft guidelines for operators and authorised the General Manager to negotiate user agreements, memorandums of understanding and leases with operators who complied with the Ethical Principles and Guidelines. Ms Mansfield said she had always complied with what was required under the guidelines and was happy she could now resume after signing an agreement.

“As you know it has been a very difficult five weeks for us with the uncertainty of our Willow Court Asylum Tours,’’ Ms Mansfield said. “We have now negotiated with council and signed on the dotted line and can officially announce – Willow Court Tours are back. “I am not required to change how we conduct our tours. “We have always respected the cultural and built heritage, ensured the authenticity of our content/stories are told with verifiable facts and sources and have always respected the sensitivities of the site.

“The Willow Court Ethical Principles and Guidelines will now enable all users of the site to comply with standards to support all activities at the site. “We could not have done this without all our supporters from all over the world, for all their messages, phone calls and emails, to all of the local businesses who will again benefit from our tours and to the local community who also stood by us.’’

The Willow Court Heritage Interpretation Plan will continue to be developed and a draft will be presented to a future Council meeting following further community consultation.