Lismore to miss out on million dollar event?

Lismore could miss out on hosting a $1 million, four-day rugby league carnival over the October long weekend after Lismore City Council mayor, Merv King, wrote a letter to organisers opposing the event.

Two weeks ago a Bundjalung and Sydney-based delegation made a powerpoint presentation to Lismore City Council, outlining details of the NSW Annual Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout Carnival which is now in its 37th year. In return for bringing the knockout carnival to Lismore, the delegation asked Council to waive the rent for Oakes and Crozier Oval and help out with rubbish collection, as they did for the Titans versus Eels game last month.

The strictly drug and alcohol-free event is expected to inject $1 million into the local economy as well as provide positive social benefits for the local Aboriginal community. The carnival is promoting the Blackout Violence campaign, there will be league development clinics for Aboriginal youth and entertainment will be provided with an Under 18s Blue Light Disco to be run in partnership with PCYC and the Department of Sport and Recreation.

But last Friday, March 16, a letter written by mayor Merv King was conveyed to the Merritt-Pattern Redfern Rugby League Football Club, which is hosting the event, outlining why Cr King would not support the carnival.

In the letter Cr King states his concern that a number of sporting events such as the Masters Games, the Lismore Cup and the Womens Regional Bowls Carnival (all running in the lead-up) would clash with the October long weekend event and it would be unrealistic for us to expect that Lismore could accommodate even a small number of the visitors expected from the knock-out.

Cr King said yesterday that he understood 70 per cent of Lismores 1500 beds were already booked out for the weekend and the carnival was expected to draw 5000 people to Lismore.

My concern is where are we going to put them?, he said. Theres also no public transport over the weekend so it does become a problem.

The proposal put to Council outlines how the event will be run in a socially responsible fashion hiring all the infrastructure for the carnival locally, providing free transport for participants around town and involving over 100 local children in the opening and closing ceremonies.

Local rugby league player and community service worker, Chris Binge said the Aboriginal community was over it.

Lismore City Council is the first to jump up and down about how bad it is on the streets or out at Coraki, he said. Here is a chance to do something positive, a chance to get our young men off the streets and give them some hope and direction. The presentation we did for Council was one of the most professional submissions youre ever likely to see, and we left thinking we had majority support for the carnival. Then this happens.

Chris, who was part of the original delegation, said the knockout carnival is probably the largest event on the nations Aboriginal calendar, and had run for 36 years without incident, drawing upward of 5000 Indigenous people together to celebrate their culture, their communal ties and to thrill at each others incredible rugby league skills.

Councillor Jenny Dowell said she believed Council should support the carnival as the only clashing events were a soccer club reunion dinner at The Workers Club, and a one-day graduation at Southern Cross University.

As stated in the presentation, the teams and supporters will travel up to an hour if closer accommodation is booked out, she said. I really do not see the relevance of the Masters Games (the week before the event), Lismore Cup and Race Day (both before), the bowling carnival (before) or the school holidays. The soccer club reunion is a dinner at the workers club thats all. The graduation is the only clash and I cannot believe we would decline any other major four day event just because it clashed with one day of graduations.

The Echo understands that an extraordinary meeting of Council has been called where a motion will be put, seeking Councils support for the carnival.

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