Race over, now for the wash-up

The dust has barely settled on the roads, but the debate about the benefits or otherwise of the World Rally Championship is off and racing.

Organisers said more than 50,000 people attended the event, and the figure could have been as high as 70,000 when all of the free venues and entertainment were taken into account.

“It was an extremely successful weekend. The overwhelming support of the community was extremely gratifying and we have been getting excellent reports from local businesses about how well they did,” Chairman of the Rally Australia Board Alan Evans said.

“We wanted the people of Tweed and Kyogle, plus visitors from elsewhere in New South Wales, interstate and overseas to see the World Rally cars and they turned out in big numbers...It was amazing how many private residences along the rally route were having front-yard parties to watch the cars go by. We have no way of knowing what those numbers were, but they would certainly add significantly to the total and from what we understand in many cases the visitors came from outside the region. It's been a magnificent event. Rally Australia will be back in 2011 and it will be an even better event,” he said.

Organiser of the Kyogle Fringe Festival, Suzie Coulston said Kyogle had been 'a real buzz and a real positive feeling in town' over the weekend with an estimated 10,000 people coming through the town over three days.

“The feedback from retailers has been very positive. Food outlets had a massive upturn in trade. Jenny's Coffee Lounge estimated they were up 1000% on a normal Sunday.

“The real lesson we did learn was that people were here to see the cars and they just chased them from one spectator point to the next. There is lots of improvements we can make at our end to meet the needs of visitors,” she said.

Ms Coulston said there had been lots of people inquiring about staying in Kyogle next time because they didn't realise how far from the coast it was.

She said they would be conducting formal evaluation by phone, by letter sent to residents in Kyogle and at a public meeting to be held sometime in the next few weeks.

The Police said they were also pleased with the majority of the crowd's behaviour. However they did condemn the actions of a small number of protestors who threw rocks at passing rally cars.

“These incidents are being investigated and the people responsible will be prosecuted,” Superintendent Michael Kenny said. Some charges have been laid for offences including offensive conduct, malicious damage, drink driving, dangerous driving and one vehicle has been confiscated for doing a burnout.

Secretary of the No Rally group, Dr Fiona McCormick said they were 'energised by the public demonstrations against the rally'.

“We are now looking forward to the next phase of countering this inappropriate event, which is the review process written into the legislation...We have a strong case for not holding this event in this region or indeed anywhere in NSW ever again, and have the support of the drivers in this as well. They simply do not wish to race here if the people do not want it,” Dr McCormick said. Peter Lanyon from the anti rally group 7th Generation was also looking forward to the post event review.

“Never before has a rally met with such local protest. Until now passive local populations around the world have believed that the rally was a good thing, good for the economy, safe for the environment and attractive to the local community. But this is the Northern Rivers of New South Wales. Here we take our environment and our lifestyle and the quality of our communities most seriously.

“The very word 'rally' is permanently entwined with the word 'protest'...Along with bull fighting, shark hunting and prize fighting, the sport of racing cars through rain forests and beside national parks is doomed. Two years from now, ever more Australians will be aware environmental issues and ever more people will oppose it.”

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