Newcastle Supercars: Police warn residents against antagonising racegoers

OUT IN FORCE: Police Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell, Supercars event manager Kurt Sakzewski, NSW Fire and Rescue Zone Commander Superintendent Greg Windeatt and NSW Ambulance's Hunter duty operations manager Luke Wiseman at Fort Scratchley on Friday.
OUT IN FORCE: Police Assistant Commissioner Max Mitchell, Supercars event manager Kurt Sakzewski, NSW Fire and Rescue Zone Commander Superintendent Greg Windeatt and NSW Ambulance's Hunter duty operations manager Luke Wiseman at Fort Scratchley on Friday.

Police say the safety and amenity of the crowd will trump residents’ right to protest during the Newcastle Supercars race next weekend.

Police will draft in extra officers from Sydney as about 150,000 racegoers converge on Newcastle East from Friday to Sunday for the final round of the Supercars championship.

They will have the Nemesis patrol boat on the water, the Polair helicopter in the sky and a legion of officers on the ground for what they expect to be a “challenging” three days.

Northern Region Commander Max Mitchell said inner-city road closures and the big crowd would test emergency services, who announced on Friday that they were setting up a medical centre for residents staffed by Newcastle accident and emergency doctors, GPs, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, mental health professionals and paramedics. 

“For Newcastle, it’s challenging in terms of the large crowd numbers expected,” he said. “Of course, as the city is being revitalised with light rail and everything else, that adds to the issues around traffic.

“For all of us who live and work in the city, we know it’s congested right now, so it’s quite difficult to get around. Added to the event, it becomes a bit of a headache.”

The concert stage, right, under construction at the foreshore on Friday. Picture: Simone De Peak

The concert stage, right, under construction at the foreshore on Friday. Picture: Simone De Peak

Emotions are running high in the east end, where some residents have fought a bitter campaign against the race, but Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said police would not tolerate protests which spilled out of the designated resident areas.

“We’ve been monitoring the local residents on social media – we do a lot of that – but also speaking to people on the street and getting a feel for information,” he said.

Assistant Commissioner Mitchell, who assumed the role in August, said there was “nothing to suggest” residents planned to disrupt the race.

“I hope that remains the case, but we’ve got contingencies in place that, if there was protest activity, we will have public-order and riot-squad police up here as well.

“I think if they were to roll out a banner off the balcony or the front of their residence, we’ve got to use a little bit of common sense as well.

“If it was something that aggravated the good nature of everyone in the precinct, we would have to come and ask for that marketing, whatever they were running, to be taken away.

“Certainly no banners through crowds. We would actually intervene, because they’re the sort of things that really create angst among the general public.

“Anything that impacts significantly on the larger majority, we would intervene.

“Now’s not the right time. I understand free speech – I understand that – but perhaps for the event itself just let people enjoy themselves and everyone will be happy.”

The Nemesis police patrol boat will be in Newcastle for the Supercars weekend.

The Nemesis police patrol boat will be in Newcastle for the Supercars weekend.

Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said senior police had attended the Gold Coast 600 last month to help plan the Newcastle operation, but the event still was an unknown quantity.

“When we plan for these events we plan for many, many contingencies, so we desktop a lot of emergencies, whether it’s an issue on the harbour or a fire or an emergency within the precinct.

“It will be a bit of suck it and see, but our planning and the experience of all the emergency leaders will be able to cope.”

He said Supercars races were “very, very strong family events, and that’s what we want for Newcastle”.

Some residents have complained about hoons speeding around the almost-completed street track, but Assistant Commissioner Mitchell said police had not noticed an increase in dangerous driving in the east end.

He said this might change once all the roads were open to the public – Shortland Esplanade is still closed – but police would work with council after the race to determine if they needed to reintroduce speed humps.