THE decision to hold a V8 Supercar race in Newcastle’s historic East End has caused “widespread alarm, dread and especially outrage” and will put children, the elderly and the mentally ill at risk from “hoons”, a protest in the city heard on Friday.
About 140 people gathered in Scott Street to rally against the Newcastle 500 Supercars race, due to be held in the historic beachside suburb this November.
Since it was announced last year the race has proved divisive in Newcastle, and the protest saw clashes between those opposed to the race and a group of V8 supporters who showed up to show their support for the race.
During the rally Peter Saul, an intensive care doctor and East End resident, told protesters the noise from the event could cause “irreparable damage” to people’s hearing, and would “exceed safe levels”.
“As an intensive care doctor I see the tragic consequences of illegal street racing every day,” Dr Saul said.
“Young people are particularly at risk, and we have seen many young lives lost or irreparably harmed by crashes resulting from racing around urban streets.”
The protest included a sound demonstration – organisers said it was about 95 decibels – to mimic a Supercar event, and during the display tempers threatened to boil over.
Carolyn Taylor, from Maryland, a Supercar supporter who waved a chequered flag during the demonstration – was accosted by a protester who tried to make her put the flag down.
“They had the stereo way too loud,” she said. “The cars aren’t that loud [and] the buildings are still standing, they’ll survive.”
Another Supercar supporter – Richie Cunningham – traveled from East Maitland to “see if they had any truthfulness” at the rally.
“And surprise surprise, they didn’t, they will talk about anything but fact,” Mr Cunnigham said.
Judith Gatland, an 84-year-old East Resident who said she’d lived in the suburb for 40 years, said the event had caused “dread” among the “frail and elderly population”.
“The East End will be locked off from the rest of Newcastle … including all the baths and beaches,” she said.
Another speaker, architectural historian Dr Steven Fleming, called for the Australian Heritage Council to force the council to impose a heritage management plan on the area to protect the “fragile” buildings in the area prior to the race.
“What we have here is a council elected by the suburbs, for the suburbs of the 1960’s,” Mr Fleming said.
“They’re totally backward. These are people who view the world through their car windscreen and have driveways bigger than our blocks of land here.”