LISMORE SHOW MAY CLOSE
By SHAN GOODWIN
THE 102-year-old Lismore Showground is on the verge of closing permanently because of a cash crisis.
It would spell the end for events like the North Coast National, Lismore Speedway and Lismore Go-Karting.
Yesterday the showground's managers, Lismore Showground Trust, revealed it would run out of money by the end of the month, needing at least $4000 a week to continue.
Trust president John Gibson issued an urgent plea for help to Lismore City Council and the region's business community.
Mr Gibson said a blow-out in insurance and ground maintenance costs were 'simply beyond the financial capability of the trust'.
Insurance costs have doubled in the past five years to $50,000 annually.
Extensive work also is needed to maintain the 40-odd buildings at the showground, with some up to 100 years old. Already $1.5 million has been spent over the past decade.
Takings from the past four North Coast National shows, which traditionally propped up showground maintenance, have been down $200,000 over the past four years. Organisers said wet weather was to blame for the shortfall.
"The show itself is profitable. We had more than 35,000 people through the gates this year," Mr Gibson said.
"But without a showground, it cannot be held."
The 32-hectare site is owned partly by the State Government and partly by the North Coast Agricultural and Industrial Society, which stages the show.
An emergency meeting for the dozens of showground users has been called for next Monday at the Members Stand from 11am.
Regular users include Lismore Speedway, Lismore GoKart Club, the Rainbow Region Organic Markets, Ian Weir's Monthly Auction, the Lismore Poultry Club, the Westpac Helicopter 4WD Camping Show, the Lismore Farmers Market, the Richmond River Bird Club and North Rivers Gymkhana.
The grounds are also used, almost on a daily basis, for one-off community events.
Already, there are 46 events booked for January, Mr Gibson said.
The trust charges a nominal payment for community groups.
Lismore City Council's general manager Paul O'Sullivan has recommended councillors at their next meeting on Tuesday consider helping the trust by providing a $50,000 guarantee to the end of 2006 and in-kind management resources.
Mr Gibson said while all help was very much appreciated, that would not keep the showground afloat.