This year's Australian round of the World Rally Championship will definitely be held on the Coffs Coast.
This year's Australian round of the World Rally Championship will definitely be held on the Coffs Coast. Trevor Veale

Mayor calls on councillors to 'see the light' on Rally

COFFS Harbour City Council mayor Denise Knight is calling on her fellow councillors to seriously consider their stand of council's financial support of Rally Australia.

"I'm really hoping that my councillors that voted not to pursue the sponsorship will see the light and see that this is amazing for the community of Coffs Harbour," Cr Knight said.

"We've got Andrew Fraser supporting it, Luke Hartsuyker, the mayor, the deputy mayor, the presidents of the Chambers, Nathan Quinn. Everyone's pulling together to support this so I'm really hoping that my fellow councillors will see the light."

Cowper MP Luke Hartsuyker has more than thrown his support behind Rally Australia continuing to be held on the Coffs Coast. He's ready to call out any councillor who votes against council's support as someone who isn't putting the needs of Coffs Harbour first.

"Any councillor who votes in a way that would prejudice this event is voting against the interests of their community," Mr Hartsuyker said.

"This event has massive support across the community. It has the support of the hospitality sector and it has the support of the wider business sector.

"It would be a tragedy if councillors not acting in the best interest of the community would put this event at risk. It's just not sensible."

While Cr Knight received an assurance from Rally Australia senior executive officer Wayne Kenney this morning that the event will definitely be held on the Coffs Coast in 2016, she said not having it on the Coffs Coast in the future simply shouldn't be an option.

"Not to have it here in my opinion is completely out of the question," she said.

"We want it here, we support it here. Everybody wants it, the community wants it. The emails are just flooding in. People are ringing me saying 'what can I do' and I'm saying email the councillors."

Cr Knight admitted that the neighbouring Bellingen and Nambucca shires who also host Rally Australia stages each year don't provide any financial support to the event.

When asked if she thought rate payers should know the extent of the financial arrangement between council and Rally Australia, the mayor said they will in the fullness of time but not while it has a commercial in confidence arrangement.

"Further down the track you'll see it on our business papers that goes out on to the public website but at this point in time it is commercial in confidence," she said.

The reason for such an arrangement?

"Any sponsorship that deals with big events most of the time it's best to keep it just on the downlow for a while 'til we're still negotiating things," she said.

The mayor denied that council's general manager Steve McGrath has a conflict of interest by holding a place on the Rally Australia board.

"In 2010 there was a council resolution stating that the general manager is on the board of Rally," Cr Knight said.

"Now that was voted by councillors in 2010. Nothing has changed. He does not have a conflict of interest in any way shape or form. It is a council resolution, it's never been changed, he was voted on there by council."

"The community are outraged. They want the rally,"

Mr Hartsuyker admitted the Federal Governement doesn't provide any diect support to the event but said he's willing to offer as much support as he can for obvious reasons.

"This is a world class event. It's a major part of the council's event strategy that has been so successful in increasing visitation to our region," he said.

"It's really helping to put Coffs Harbour on the map."



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