Coffs still in the swim for national surf titles
By MICHELLE DAY
RUMOURS that Coffs Harbour could lose the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships were quashed by surf officials yesterday.
Talk that the annual week-long championships, due to be held here from 2010 to 2012, may not go ahead in Coffs was fuelled by a recent Gold Coast Bulletin article that quoted Surf Life Saving Queensland executive manager John Brennan.
Mr Brennan said in the article he would fight aggressively to take the event back to Kurrawa in Queensland when its three-year stint in Scarboro, Western Australia, was up in 2009.
But that is when it is due to move to Coffs Harbour.
Mr Brennan yesterday said he meant that he would be fighting to get the championships back to Kurrawa after they were held in Coffs Harbour.
The championships are expected to inject a whopping $38 million per year into the Coffs Harbour economy during their stay.
They are also expected to place the city on the map as a destination for a predicted 8000 competitors, their family and friends, and fans watching the event at home on television.
However, despite reassurances from Surf Life Saving Australia, ex-managing director of Sports Marketing Australia Rick Sleeman ? who spearheaded the deal to bring the event to Coffs Harbour ? was nonetheless concerned yesterday.
"It appears as though there are some issues still to be resolved which put the event at risk," he said. "The SLSA championships would be to Coffs Harbour what the Olympics was to Sydney in regards to the infrastructure left behind as a legacy, not to mention the economic boon ? it would change the face of Coffs Harbour forever.
"It was a miracle that we were able to put this deal together to bring this event to Coffs Harbour in the first place ? it would be a travesty if we were to lose it."
SLSA chief executive Brett Williamson yesterday said a contract to hold the event in Coffs Harbour was signed and he had no doubt that the people involved would deliver.
"I am very aware of beach erosion problems and I am aware that council is looking at this. There are some rumours around but they are working through those issues," Mr Williamson said.
"We have been given every assurance from Coffs Harbour City Council that they are committed and want this event. There will have to be some remedial and infrastructural work but they are looking at that," he added.
Attempts by the Coffs Coast Advocate to contact Coffs Harbour City Council general manager Steven Sawtell for comment yesterday were unsuccessful.