Start your engines for world rally

No other issue has polarised people in our region like the World Rally Championship for many, many years.

One side of the debate says the rally is a world-class sporting event that will bring jobs and tourism opportunities to the region. The other side says it is an archaic form of entertainment that has no place in a world trying to reduce its carbon output. Opponents also claim the rally will result in damage to local flora and fauna, copycat 'hoon driving' and will actually damage our tourism branding, which is based on the natural beauty of the area.

A last minute legal injunction failed last week when the Federal Court dismissed the case, but protestors are expected to be out in force all weekend to show how they feel about having the rally imposed on the region.

The No Rally Group are organising a peaceful protest near the entrance to the service pits on the grounds of the Cudgen Leagues Club at Kingscliff on Saturday morning, September 5, from 9am.

Scott Sledge from the No Rally Group said they wanted to show that local people are unhappy with the way the rally has been forced on the region with the state government's “special legislation” overriding normal laws and planning processes.

“This is jackboot rule, a blow to our democratic traditions,” Mr Sledge said. “I encourage all residents to show Sydney politicians and rally organisers that they should have due regard for the people affected by their actions which will impact severely on this small community. The residents along the rally routes will suffer a high level of noise and dust distress, and their roads will be closed for the benefit of an elite group, mostly from overseas.”

On Tuesday NSW Police announced 'Operation Palisade', their response to dealing with the crowds that are expected to flock to the event. The operation will include general duties officers, Public Order Riot Squad (PORS), Operational Support Group (OSG), Polair, and the dog unit to crackdown on anti-social and criminal behaviour.

The rally has courted controversy from the moment it was announced with an undisclosed sponsorship arrangement with the state government through Events NSW. Now, the director of Repco Rally Australia, Garry Connelly, has told the ABC's 7.30 Report that “Northern NSW has always suffered as being the poor cousin of the Gold Coast.”

But CEO of Northern Rivers Tourism, Russell Mills, doesn't agree.

“We are quite different in what we offer compared to what the Gold Coast has to offer. Travellers to our region appreciate our World Heritage-listed rainforests, our beaches, our food, arts and creative industries...We will continue to promote those experiences as part of the authentic holiday we can offer to travellers,” he said. “I think it's important that we do distinguish from the Gold Coast, but I don't believe we compete directly with the Gold Coast. People who come here want a more nature-based holiday experience... it's completely different.”

The Kyogle and District Chamber of Commerce received $30,000 from the state government to assist the local community to plan some events to help them take advantage of the crowds the rally is expected to bring.

Vice president of the Chamber Joanne Moore said she is looking forward to the Fringe Festival, organised for the weekend.

“Hopefully there will be a lot of people and some new faces in town,” she said.

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