Mr IAN COHEN [5.13 p.m.]: Rally Australia is promoting a car rally to be held in northern New South Wales this September and every other year until 2017. The rally will run through the Tweed and Kyogle shires of northern New South Wales. This event is yet to have its development application approved by Tweed Shire Council and Kyogle Council. The councils are awaiting the environmental assessment. This does not seem to deter the organisers, who are promoting it regardless. Repco Rally Australia General Manager, Gary Upson, told the media that organisers were continuing with planning "on the assumption that approval would be given". Given the area through which the rally is planned to travel and the negative environmental impact it may have, I am surprised at his assumption. The confidence with which this rally is being promoted by its organisers as a done deal should ring alarm bells.
The General Manager of Tweed Shire Council, Mike Rayner, is a member of the board of Rally Australia, yet Tweed council does not seem to see this as a conflict of interest, even when the development application for the rally is still to be approved, despite ratepayers' disapproval. Mike Rayner's role with the Repco Rally appears to be a significant non-pecuniary interest and Tweed Shire Council's own code of conduct should preclude his involvement in the rally. Tweed Shire Council has only recently been through the Daly inquiry, resulting in the sacking of its councillors who were seen to be acting in the interests of property developers. In the wake of the Daly inquiry, the people of the Tweed shire are trying to rebuild confidence in their local council, and the role of Mike Rayner is seriously undermining this. In the interests of transparency and propriety, Mike Rayner should be asked to step down from his position on the rally board.
The proposed rally track route has been recognised as an official designated area under the National Landscapes Scheme and named Australia's Green Cauldron. It is an internationally renowned biodiversity hot spotone of only three in Australia and one of 17 in the world. It is a totally inappropriate place for a high-speed car race. How could anyone believe it is a good idea to hold a car rally through heavily forested tracks and dirt roads, including a national park where horse riding is not even permitted? I am receiving a lot of information from local people about the rally going through the habitats of threatened or protected species. Some 100 vulnerable species of wildlife and 23 endangered species in the Tweed area will be placed at greater risk as a result of the rally, which would coincide with the breeding season of many species.
The level of disruption this event is likely to cause is not acceptable. Jack Bayliss Park on the foreshore at Marine Parade, Kingscliff, is due to be upgraded to become a service pit for the competing rally cars. Sections of the park will be fenced off and the grass removed to allow installation of a temporary gravel surface. This upgrade, due to cost approximately $265,000, is being funded by money provided by a Federal Government grant for community infrastructure. This is hardly a venture for the community, given the real infrastructure needs of regional New South Wales. What will happen to this park after the event? Will it be despoiled every two years for the rally?
We are not allowed to know how much money Events New South Wales is contributing to this eventit is held to be commercial in confidencebut the destruction of Jack Bayliss Park is being done using Federal funds. Rally Australia Pty Ltd is a public company with shareholders. Why does it require taxpayers' money to bolster its activities, especially when they involve despoiling the beautiful Far North Coast? If this event is going to make money for the area, as its organisers keep trumpeting, why does it need public funding? I doubt the claims by organisers that the rally will boost the local economy. Mark McGowan, the former Western Australia Minister for Tourism, withdrew Western Australia's support for the Repco rally. In Parliament he said: $6 million for one single event that returns $1.60 for every dollar invested by the State, when the average return is about $8 for every dollar invested by the State, is not a good return on investment.
When this man was interviewed on ABC television he clearly indicated that there were better ways to invest taxpayers' money. He felt that the returns were insufficient. At the time he also commented on the environmental degradation that such a rally would cause in Western Australia. In this case the environment is much more sensitive. The Green Cauldron, as this Government has called it, is a significant area. Environmentally, the rally will be a potential disaster. Another significant issue that arises with this event is copycat driving. There is a proven correlation between interest in motor racing and the risky driving behaviours of young male drivers. I would be interested to know how much the New South Wales Government's "Speeding. No one thinks big of you" campaign is costing. Surely it is counterproductive to have Events New South Wales funding an event that so glaringly contradicts the messages of the anti-speeding campaign.
A horde of cars careering through native habitats and quiet residential areas for the profit of Repco Rally is out of keeping with these times of austerity. New South Wales is making a mistake in supporting the Repco Rally. The people of the North Coast do not want it, and it should not go ahead. I am reminded that a terrible car accident involving young people occurred just around the corner from where I live at Broken Head, not that far from the proposed rally route. The roads in far northern New South Wales could perhaps cope with professional drivers participating in a rally but not with copycat driving by young people. Such an event would result in deaths on these roads. I ask the Government to reconsider any support for this event.