Is Newcastle council paying a secret fee for Supercars?

New Independent councillor Kath Elliott has asked council staff to confirm if the city is paying a licence fee to host the Supercars race.

Cr Elliott, who was not on the council when it voted last year to host the race for the next five years, told Tuesday night’s council meeting that she had heard the city was paying a fee for the three-day event.

She raised the matter during debate on whether the council should undertake an independent study of the costs and benefits of the Newcastle 500.

“Is there a licence fee for Supercars over a period of time? If so, what is that?” Cr Elliott asked.

She said after the meeting that people had a right to know if the council was paying a fee, given how “divisive” the race had been.

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said a licence fee was the subject of a confidential briefing to councillors before they decided last year to pursue the Supercars race.

“There was only one part of all the reports to council which was commercial-in-confidence, and that was a licence fee,” she said.

The council voted in favour of Greens councillor John MacKenzie’s call for a detailed study to weigh the benefits of the race against the effect it was having on residents and businesses.

“There’s no doubt it will be a success for people in attendance,” he said. “We need a better understanding of what has been accomplished and what has been lost in the process of preparing for and running this race.

“We don’t have a business case . . . . So far all the councillors have access to are the promoter’s figures.

“These figures are well rehearsed in the media: 16,000 new visitors, 150,000 people and a supposed television audience estimated at about 220 million.

“While the benefits are uncertain, the success of the event isn’t just about who had a good time [and] did we run a good event. The success is have we delivered value to the people of Newcastle and, in particular, what has been the cost of that to the residents of the east end.” 

Independent John Church said residents and business people in the east end were suffering.

“We still have a large number of residents in the east who are bitterly unhappy and feel disenfranchised from the decisions of this council,” he said.

He said the race would be popular and a good promotion for the city, but residents had not been consulted properly and were vulnerable to the Motor Racing (Sydney and Newcastle) Act 2008.   

“I speak to this horrid Act which runs this race that prevents people from having the normal legal right to claim compensation for damages. 

“I refer to residents who may have had damage to their houses, and particularly to the local businesses.

“I have been told their turnover is down as much as 50 per cent.”