Murwillumbah ecologist Dr Stephen Phillips.
Murwillumbah ecologist Dr Stephen Phillips.

Rally divided community

SUPPORTERS and opponents of the controversial world car rally championship held in the Tweed last September have finally agreed on one thing: the rally bitterly divided the community.

Both sides yesterday agreed with ecologist Dr Stephen Phillips, who on Tuesday told Tweed Shire Councillors the Tweed now appeared to be a community divided by ideologies even though, he added, the environmental impact of the rally had been minimal.

Dr Phillips revealed about a dozen animals, mostly reptiles or small birds killed during the rally’s 14 stages.

No Rally Group spokesperson Andrea Vickers said the “body count” was not the point, because studies by Dr Phillips’ company Biolink had shown “the rally routes are home to 66 fauna species listed as threatened in NSW”.

“How would you feel if someone drove through your living room at 180 km/h?” she asked.

Ms Vickers said the real question was: “What is the Tweed about?

“Is it about ecotourism, a peaceful lifestyle and a safe community – or is it about hooning on public roads?”

She said Dr Phillips’ comments highlighted the social divisions the event has brought to the area.

“The core reason for this is that the demographics don’t support an event of this kind,” Ms Vickers added.

“The only reason the rally is here is because it’s a place in NSW with suitable roads that’s close to a large population centre.”

Murwillumbah Business Chamber president Toni Zuschke, a supporter of the rally, said she felt a “lot of empathy for Dr Phillips when he spoke of being abused from both sides of the rally controversy.

“I’ve been copping abuse from all sides as well,” she said. “I’m also sick of the way in which the community has been divided over the rally.”

Mrs Zuschke said the event had been proven to have minimal environmental impact.

However, she said she also understood that many people “don’t think the event is appropriate for this area” and felt their rights had been violated by the NSW Government taking approval for the rally out of the hands of Tweed and Kyogle shire councils.

But she added: “People have to get over their fury and start looking more proactively.”

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