Opinion | Dear Jeff, don't call us precious

NO PITSTOP: "This is not a 'one off', but will happen every year for at least five years". The work being done on the foreshore for the Supercars event. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers

NO PITSTOP: "This is not a 'one off', but will happen every year for at least five years". The work being done on the foreshore for the Supercars event. Photo: Max Mason-Hubers

Dear Jeff Corbett,

Newcastle East residents are being no more ‘precious’ than residents anywhere in the world would be having a motor racing track built outside their front doors (‘Precious in the East End’, Herald 9/9)

We believe motor racing should be on a purpose-built, permanent track and not in anyone’s backyard. In November, V8s will race at more than 250kmh through the 40kmh streets of Newcastle East, less than 5 metres from the front doors of 120-year-old terraces and businesses.

Imagine this event taking place though the Rocks precinct in Sydney. Imagine concrete barricades being set up for 20 per cent of the year in front of cafes and restaurants overlooking Sydney Harbour. “Utter madness,”  Sydneysiders would say. They know what’s good for their local economy. 

In Newcastle, however, we seem quite happy with the idea of barricades obscuring the amenity of our prime beachside cafes and popular tourist attractions for up to three months every year. We are actually prepared to spend ratepayers’ money to help out Supercars.

More than 113 small business line this circuit. The loss of their amenity for up to three months every year will be considerable. They will suffer from traffic congestion and parking problems and will be unable to operate as usual, both during the event and in the construction period before and after the event. Already many businesses in the East End are reporting 60 per cent losses.

This is not a “one off”, but will happen every year for at least five years. There is no compensation for any of their financial losses.

A bit disruptive you say? Newcastle’s design-winning Foreshore Park has been rendered unrecognisable. Almost 200 trees have been cut down. A road has been built through the heritage listed Coal River Precinct. Another 2 hectares of the Foreshore Park is being concreted to house the two-storey pit stop facilities and concrete laid for grandstands. The rustic, narrow road below Fort Scratchley has been widened into a race track, totally transforming its heritage character and appeal.

Both Nobbys Road and Newcastle’s oldest road, Watt Street, has been dug up in order to remove the water inspection vents from the road to the footpath, to accommodate the race track. Newcastle City Council has funded this work, despite it being specialised infrastructure only necessary for a motor racing circuit. There’s no doubt council’s budget for this work has blown out.

In the public interest you say? The only financial figures available to test this assumption are those made public by Supercars. These have been shown to be highly exaggerated by auditor-generals in Victoria, Canberra, Sydney, Queensland and Hamilton, New Zealand. The auditor-general in Canberra was scathing in his assessment of the idea that the Supercars event ‘showcased’  that city to the world. Canberra city council paid Supercars out - three years into their five-year contract - because of the money they were losing.

Jeff, I urge you to check out the history of Supercars events. Don't simply rely on their promotional material. Why did it lose so much money in Canberra and Homebush? Why did the Gosford administrator reject the Supercars proposal three weeks before our council enthusiastically endorsed it? 

There might be a good story here for a journalist such as yourself to investigate.

Dr Christine Everingham is a concerned resident of Newcastle's historic East End

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