Coffs Harbour City Council said the details of the agreement between it and Rally Australia are commercial in confidence.
Coffs Harbour City Council said the details of the agreement between it and Rally Australia are commercial in confidence. Trevor Veale

Council hush-hush on amount it pays for Rally

COFFS Harbour City Council is remaining tight-lipped on exactly how much ratepayer money it is spending on sponsoring the World Rally Championships.

The council's financial support of the international sporting event has come under scrutiny after four councillors last week voted down a motion to sponsor the 2016 and 2017 rounds.

The council says the details of the agreement are commercial in confidence and disclosing the sum could open the door for a bidding war with competing cities.

But councillors Sally Townley and Mark Sultana are among those who believe the amount should be publicly released.

"They're saying it's commercial in confidence but if you're paying your rates - and we hiked up the rates last year - you should know where that money is allocated," Cr Sultana said.

The last time the council released details of its financial support was the 2014 World Rally Championships, when the council agreed to give Rally Australia $224,000.

No figures for last year's rally have been publicly declared, but according to the council's 2014-15 financial statement, the council spent $869,000 in donations, contributions and assistance to organisations.

Of that sum, recipients of $138,627 were released at the council's meeting on September 25.

Beneficiaries of the remaining $730,373 have not been publicly released.

Director of financial services Andrew Beswick confirmed sponsorship of the rally was included in this expenditure, but pointed out the council sponsored "many events, not just the rally".

The council's stance is in line with Office of Local Government regulations that state councils are not required to release details of individual donations or sponsorship agreements.

Mayor Denise Knight said "ratepayers do have a right to know" the details.

"I certainly don't have a problem with it, but when the planning of events are in preliminary stages, we don't want to break our code of conduct by revealing it," Cr Knight said.

Member for Coffs Harbour Andrew Fraser weighed in on the debate, claiming financial returns outweighed the cost of sponsorship.

He said the rally - believed to inject about $13 million into the local economy - was not worth putting at risk.

"Do you want the Chinese, South Koreans, India, South Africa to know how much we're putting into it? They'll only outbid us," he said.



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