Five time world champion Sebastien Loeb has won the first Repco Rally Australia with teammate Daniel Elena.
Five time world champion Sebastien Loeb has won the first Repco Rally Australia with teammate Daniel Elena.

Council fights to save its rally

WHILE Coffs thinks it's in the bag, don't tell anyone further north.

An urgent meeting of Tweed Shire Council yesterday voted to support holding the world championship car rally there next year – but only by the narrowest of margins and only after the support was watered down with conditions.

Greens Party councillor Katie Milne convinced pro-rally councillors to include a condition that it be subject to a ‘comprehensive economic analysis' which includes till now secret government spending – but then voted against it.

She was backed in her opposition to the rally by deputy mayor Barry Longland and Cr Joan van Lieshout.

Mayor Kevin Skinner, who declined to reveal which way he was intending to vote until he actually voted, said he hoped the council decision would end community division over the future of the event which last year saw protests along rally stages and at the marshalling centre in Kingscliff.

But his appeal for the community ‘to come together' soon failed with rally opponents in the public gallery at the council chambers in Murwillumbah jeering the four-three vote.

The 10am extraordinary meeting of the council was called at short notice by Cr Skinner and Cr Warren Polglase in a bid to show whether or not the council supported next year's event ahead of a decision expected next Tuesday in Paris by the World Motor Sport Council, a body of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile.

The meeting became more extraordinary than expected when councillors, staff and the public had to evacuate the council building for 25 minutes after alarms were set off in the engineering and operations area.

Corporate governance manager Neil Baldwin said the Murwillumbah Fire Brigade checked out the area and found ‘no fire incident on this occasion'.

The councillors had been about to consider an amendment by Cr Milne calling for the economic analysis condition when they had to evacuate. When they returned pro-rally councillors accepted the condition hoping to win extra votes.

The councillors allowed people from the gallery to address them – two for and two against – despite protests from Cr Polglase and Cr Phil Youngblutt that the short notice of the meeting and the 10am start time meant many rally supporters could not attend.

President of the 150-member Murwillumbah and District Business Chamber Toni Zuschke warned the Festival of Speed on Tweed would ‘be dead in the water' without the rally because Rally Australia underwrote it ‘to the tune of $300,000'.

No Rally Group spokeswoman Dr Fiona McCormick warned: ‘If this event comes back to the region local outrage will lead to more radical protests.

‘“Ultimately people may be injured or worse and I just can't countenance that'.

Cr van Lieshout surprised some councillors with her opposition saying the Tweed should not depend on outside influence for business survival.



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