NSW government throws support behind Newcastle 500
Tuesday 26th September, 2023 - 11:57am
The New South Wales Government has thrown its support behind the Newcastle 500 amid vigorous local opposition to the event and uncertainty over when council will decide its fate.
This morning, the Newcastle Herald reported that the would-be 2024 Supercars season-opener “appears destined for the scrap heap after the council’s administration declined to recommend councillors approve a one-year extension.”
However, the state’s tourism minister, John Graham, has since issued a press release outlining his support for the event, declaring the government “remains committed to the Newcastle 500”.
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The announcement from his office confirms that the new Labor state government, which came to power a fortnight after this year’s Newcastle 500, has provided funding for a one-year contract extension “before a longer plan is finalised.”
The stated reason for the one-year extension, which is inconsistent with the five-year option in the inaugural, five-year contract, is “massive cuts” to the State Significant Fund by the previous government which is said to have halved the budget for major events.
Minister Graham said, via the announcement from his office, “In the current fiscal environment, the NSW Government has prioritised retaining iconic major events such as the NRL Grand final, Mardi Gras, the Newcastle 500, and Sydney Festival.
“These events and others are currently going ahead with one-year extensions while we work through the budget black hole we inherited.
“The NSW Government is committed to finding solutions for our major events that generate economic and social value, delivering community and legacy benefits to our state and we look forward to a resolution for the Newcastle 500.”
A new contract, or the activation of the option in the inaugural contract, would be a tri-party agreement between Supercars, Destination NSW, and the City of Newcastle council.
According to the minister’s announcement, and consistent with previous reports by Speedcafe, “The future of the event now sits firmly in the hands of the Newcastle City Council.”
Notwithstanding local news reports, Supercars claims that discussions with council are ongoing and it is understood that the picture will become clearer in coming days, despite the Newcastle 500 not being listed on the agenda for tonight’s monthly council meeting.
That stands in contrast to the assertion from Greens councillor John Mackenzie, who told the Newcastle Herald, “Unless there’s an 11th-hour intervention and it comes back to the council, it won’t go ahead.
“If the council administration is not prepared to push for agreement on a one-year extension, unless they come back with an alternative offer, it won’t be on the schedule of events next year.”
Cr Mackenzie’s comments would appear to be predicated, at least in part, on Supercars’ stated aim of having a calendar announcement by or during the Repco Bathurst 1000, which takes place from October 5-8, weeks before next month’s council meeting takes place on either October 24 (pending possible postponement due to a Sir Paul McCartney concern) or October 31.
Speedcafe understands that October 8 is not a hard deadline for finalising the calendar, noting this year’s was released on November 23, 2022.
Then, the hold-up was apparently ambitions to race on the support card of the Singapore Grand Prix whereas Newcastle is now seemingly the only real impediment to locking in next year’s events and dates.
Of note is that while Cr Mackenzie and independent Cr John Church expressed opposition to the Newcastle 500 in this morning’s Newcastle Herald story, no Labor councillors were quoted.
Labor not only governs the state, but also has seven of Newcastle’s 13 councillors, including Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes.
If said councillors vote as a bloc, consistent with the wishes of their fellow party members in Macquarie Street, then the Newcastle 500 would be endorsed again.
Worth noting also is that Cr Mackenzie and Cr Church represent Ward 1 in Newcastle’s four-ward system, that being comprised of the suburbs in which the Newcastle 500 is held (Newcastle East, Newcastle) and those immediately surrounding it.
Unsurprisingly, the council-commissioned survey which was held earlier this year found the greatest opposition in Ward 1, with support increasing as one moved west from the race track, particularly in Wards 3 and 4.
The other Ward 1 councillor is Labor’s Declan Clausen, who is also the Deputy Lord Mayor.
According to the tourism minister’s aforementioned statement, “The Newcastle 500, staged by Supercars Australia, has been popular event among visitors and broadcast viewers nationally since its introduction in 2017, generating strong visitor expenditure for the Hunter region.
“The Newcastle 500 delivers significant benefits to the broader Newcastle economy, stimulating local businesses, creating jobs and attracting visitors to the city.”
The Newcastle 500 was first held in November 2017, and served as the season finale until various developments including the COVID-19 pandemic saw it ultimately swap places with the Adelaide 500.