Koori carnival backflip
By ALEX EASTON
LISMORE will host NSW's biggest Aboriginal sports event after the city council last night rejected, and then endorsed plans to hold the NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout Carnival in the city this year.
In a night of high drama, councillors were jeered and Bundjalung leaders demanded the Aboriginal flag be removed from the council chambers, after the council voted seven-five to back mayor Merv King's decision to reject the carnival. They also backed an addendum from Cr Brian Henry offering to host the carnival next year, after the council had formed an 'events risks, safety and security policy'.
The vote, opposed by Crs Jenny Dowell, David Tomlinson, Ros Irwin, Frank Swientek, and Vanessa Ekins, enraged the gallery.
Cr Dowell wept as people leaving the gallery paused to bellow 'red-neck' at the councillors as and to tell them they had lost the Aboriginal community's respect.
Retired football star Chris Binge announced he would stand at the next council elections and, outside the meeting, called for members of the Bundjalung community to join him.
"Unless you do that nothing is going to change," he told the crowd.
Within an hour the decision had been overturned.
Cr King said the carnival's event co-ordinator, Phillip Hall, addressed the meeting again after most of the crowd had left the room and explained in detail the security provisions that were taken for the event.
Those provisions broadly matched the 'safety and security' issues Cr Henry had raised in his addendum.
In introducing the addendum, Cr Henry noted the violence that followed Lismore's recent Titans/Eels match, saying it pointed to a need for an events risks, safety and security policy for all sporting events.
Mr Hall's comments 'allayed some of the concerns of the councillors' about security in and around the carnival, Cr King said, and was enough for the council to unanimously back a rescission motion from Cr Irwin.
Under that motion, council staff will enter immediate negotiations with organisers to develop a plan for the event, with the aim of holding the carnival in Lismore this year.
However, Cr King conceded Mr Hall had not provided any new information on accommodation or transport -? beyond comments made before the original vote.
Mr Hall had earlier told the councillors that only 5000 people would attend the carnival, and half of those were local. Others planned to stay outside the city, either with friends or at hotels in other centres. Many also had either hire cars or their own vehicles, and organisers would arrange buses.
Cr King said accommodation and transport were still 'a major concern'.