Council hits back at NSW government over Newcastle 500
Wednesday 27th September, 2023 - 9:28am
Newcastle City Council has issued a blunt response after the New South Wales tourism minister threw his support behind the Newcastle 500.
The Newcastle 500 was not discussed at last night’s city council meeting, while a resident lobby group and hostile councillors are ramping up their campaigning against the event.
Against that backdrop, the state’s Minister for Jobs and Tourism, John Graham, proclaimed the government’s ongoing “commitment” to the event, but noted that “The future of the event now sits firmly in the hands of the Newcastle City Council.”
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Notwithstanding that “The [state] Government is working towards a five-year deal with Supercars and will work with the landowner City of Newcastle Council to find a way forward,” the press release from the minister’s office also confirmed reports that it had offered a one-year extension as an interim measure, purportedly due to previously undiscovered budget cuts made by the former government.
A one-year deal is a departure from the option in the inaugural Newcastle 500 contract and was also not raised in community consultation which was undertaken in March and April of this year.
It is that deviation which is being raised as a sticking point by councillors who oppose the Newcastle 500, although why that is so is not clear.
Ahead of last night’s council meeting, a City of Newcastle spokesperson told the Newcastle Herald, “City of Newcastle has taken the time and expense of doing significant community engagement based on the contract terms and a five-year extension.
“If the NSW government wishes to change the agreement with Supercars to a one-year arrangement, then the NSW government will need to fund and undertake community consultation on that proposal prior to it being considered by the elected council.
“Once a proposal for a one-year event has undergone community consultation, the elected council can consider a report on the matter.
“Until that time there is no proposal that is in line with the current contract and consultation.
“We note that the NSW Member for Newcastle has publicly reaffirmed his opposition to the extension of the race for both one or five years.”
When that comment was raised with Supercars, a spokesperson directed Speedcafe to the championship’s statement from recent days.
It reads, “Supercars and Destination NSW are aligned in their shared commitment to host the opening event of the 2024 Repco Supercars Championship in Newcastle.
“Discussions are ongoing with Newcastle City Council and we continue to work collaboratively to find a resolution swiftly regarding the long-term future of the event in NSW’s second largest city.”
The Member for Newcastle to whom the council spokesperson referred is Tim Crakanthorp.
He advised, via his Facebook page, yesterday, “Newcastle City Council has been offered a one-year extension of the Newcastle Supercars event.
“My position has not changed, I do not support the event returning to Newcastle.
“I have been guided by the community consultation, in which a majority of my constituents were opposed to the event.
“I will update the community once Council have made their decision.”
Crakanthorp is a member of the Labor party which, after winning the election held a fortnight after the 2023 Newcastle 500, now governs the state and enjoys a slim majority on Newcastle council.
However, how much pull he enjoys is questionable, given he faces possible expulsion from the party pending how an ongoing investigation by the state’s anti-corruption commission over undisclosed family land holdings progresses.
The Newcastle 500 appears to be the last real hold-up in finalising the 2024 Supercars calendar.
Notwithstanding that only Taupo’s date has been confirmed so far, all of the other ‘tentpoles’ can be confidently predicted or reasonably estimated, and a deal to support the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix on March 21-24 is considered a formality now.
The 2023 season resumes with practice at Mount Panorama on Thursday week (October 5).