Rally roars into Tweed

THE stars of the World Rally Championship will roar into the Tweed from 2009 with the New South Wales Government and the Confederation of Australian Motor Sports (CAMS) yesterday announcing a multi-million dollar hosting rights deal for a race in our region.

From September next year Tweed and Kyogle will host the Australian leg of the world's elite rally car circuit every second year until 2017. There is an option to extend the agreement for another five events.

The majority of the biannual race, comprising of 16 competition stages, will be held on rural roads in Kyogle, Murwillumbah and Mullumbimby.

Marine Parade in Kingscliff will become the headquarters for the event, its organisers and superstar drivers such as Sebastian Loeb and Per-Gunnar Andersson. Newly-appointed New South Wales Premier Nathan Rees said the hosting rights deal, struck by Events NSW, was incentive-based and would generate more than $100 million over the life of the agreement.

"The WRC is the highest profile four-wheeled motor championship in the world after Formula One," he said.

"Hosting it on a regular basis in regional NSW will drive tourism, create jobs and deliver major economic benefits to the community."

According to statistics last year, more than 816 million people in 180 countries watched the World Rally, with around 51 million viewers per round.

Tweed Shire Council's general manager, Mike Rayner, welcomed the announcement, saying this type of international exposure for the Tweed would normally cost in excess of $20 million.

Despite only just being announced, the event has already created some controversy with some residents upset about a perceived lack of public consultation, particularly over the proposed race headquarters in Kingscliff.

It is understood Marine Parade would be closed for up to five days next September during the event, with residents yesterday receiving information regarding the proposed event site, which will be the subject of a future development application.

"I apologise for not being able to advise residents earlier," Mr Rayner said.

"There were strict confidentiality requirements in place that embargoed any advice prior to the NSW Government announcement."

Kingscliff Ratepayers and Progress Association President Pete Gladwin said he had received a confidential briefing by Mr Rayner on Tuesday and understood Marine Parade would be closed during what was "a traditionally quiet time of year".

"I don't think we can be too precious about keeping people out," he said.

"I just want to see what we can get out of it for Kingscliff as a town."

Several Tweed Shire Council election candidates have spoken out about the race, with the leader of the Greens Party ticket in this Saturday's council election Katie Milne saying she was horrified at the thought of this event being held on the Tweed.

"We think it's ludicrous," said Ms Milne. "It seems very out of touch with community values. We have that sort of thing with Indy just up the road.

"It sounds like another grand idea from the State Government, but where is the community consultation?"

Marine Parade cafe owner and council candidate Dot Holdom said "the devil is in the detail" and the public needed "all of the facts on the table" so community consultation could follow.

Former Tweed mayor Warren Polglase, who is seeking re-election as a councillor, endorsed the announcement.

"Anything that enhances opportunities for the Tweed is a good thing," he said.

The race is scheduled to take place from September 3 to 6.

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