City mayor declares Newcastle 500 ‘very successful’
Thursday 28th September, 2023 - 8:44am
Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes has declared the city’s Supercars event “very successful” but its future still hangs in the balance.
The Newcastle 500 is without a contract for 2024 and is now enveloped in a political stoush, fuelled by a vigorous local lobby group.
While the state government has thrown its support behind the event, City of Newcastle councillors and administration are putting up resistance on the basis that the interim one-year deal on the table is inconsistent with community consultation which was held earlier this year.
Supercars insiders are now expressing concern about the event’s future, but a ray of hope has emerged, with Cr Nelmes now making her first public comments on the matter in months.
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“I would say Supercars has been very successful for Newcastle,” said Newcastle’s mayor.
“It has really showcased us, showcased the city, as being able to host major events.
“I know the Premier [Chris Minns] is very supportive of having Supercars in Newcastle, and I know a lot of people really want the event to go ahead here, but we do have to be mindful of all the stakeholders through this process and we do have to make sure we go through a methodical process and there’s no point in rushing this and missing something along the way when it is a very complex set-up and set-down if the event was to go ahead in Newcastle.”
However, Cr Nelmes echoed the position expressed by council administration in recent days, namely that the length of the proposed contract is indeed a sticking point.
The option in the inaugural contract was five years, but the New South Wales government is only offering a one-year deal, for the stated reason that the previous government left a ‘black hole’ in the state’s events budget.
That is problematic for Supercars because council, along with the championship and the state’s Destination NSW agency, must all sign the contract for the event to go ahead.
“[A five-year contract] would be something that council would want to look really closely at, but until we have a deal that is done based on the terms of our consultation earlier this year there isn’t actually anything for council to decide at the moment,” explained Cr Nelmes.
NSW tourism minister John Graham referred to the economic benefits which the event generates for the city, and reiterated his backing for the Newcastle 500 in a radio interview with ABC Newcastle on Wednesday.
“From a state government point of view, from a tourism point of view, it would make sense to press ahead with a five-year deal,” he said.
“I’ve got no problem with the council consulting with the community or the local member expressing a view about the impacts on his particular electorate.
“But, when it comes to the state government’s view on this, we’ve really got to look at what it means for the state, what it means for the broader Hunter.”
The minister reportedly did not directly answer whether or not he would overrule council.
However, notwithstanding that only a one-year deal is on the table right now, he said that negotiations with Supercars on a new five-year deal had begun and he is “keen to see this event proceed.”
Minister for the Hunter Yasmin Catley said the Newcastle 500 had brought “hundreds of thousands of people to our city.”
She also remarked, “And, can I tell you, the people of Swansea that I represent they love the Supercars. They would come here in a heartbeat.
“Supercars is watched around the world. It showcases this city like no other.”
Catley represents the seat of Swansea, located within the Lake Macquarie City Council area which neighbours the local government area of Newcastle.
Furthermore, Labor not only now governs the state but also enjoys a slim majority on Newcastle council.
However, with local government elections due in NSW in September 2024, Supercars has become a dangerous political issue for councillors.
Anti-Supercars residents have also been emboldened by the results of the aforementioned community consultation, which found a majority of residents opposed to a new contract, albeit as a result of a not especially robust survey process.
Supercars has previously set a soft deadline of the Repco Bathurst 1000 for release of its 2024 calendar.
That event is next up in the 2023 campaign, starting next Thursday, October 5.