MAYOR DUMPS KOORI FOOTY
ALEX EASTON email@example.com
LISMORE risks being cast as racist if it rejects a bid to hold Australia's biggest Aboriginal sporting event, councillors have warned.
The warning follows a decision by mayor Merv King to tell organisers of the NSW Aboriginal Rugby League Knockout Carnival that Lismore could not host the four-day event because it lacked the infrastructure to support the thousands who attend it.
That claim was rejected by councillors who back the event, with one comparing it to Orange's decision last year to block Sudanese refugees being sent to the city.
Several councillors said they feared the decision would be seen as racist.
Cr King said Lismore was hosting the Lismore Masters Games, the Lismore Cup, a Southern Cross University graduation ceremony, a regional women's bowling carnival, and a soccer club reunion at the same time the Knockout Carnival was on.
He said Lismore lacked the accommodation and public transport needed for the 1000-plus footballers, including NRL players, and up to 10,000 fans expected at the carnival daily during the October Labor Day long weekend.
However, councillors Jenny Dowell and Ros Irwin rejected Cr King's reasons, saying most of those events would be finished by the time the carnival started.
Several councillors said they were angered that Cr King had taken it on himself to decide Lismore could not handle the event without first taking the matter to the council.
Council general manager Paul O'Sullivan said Cr King was within his rights as mayor to make that decision, but Cr Irwin said it was unprecedented in her 16 years on the council.
Crs Dowell, Irwin, and David Tomlinson have called for an extraordinary meeting to be held on Tuesday, with Cr Irwin lodging a motion that the council support the event.
Cr King has lodged a mayoral minute for the meeting calling for councillors to back his decision.
And a few are likely to.
Deputy mayor John Chant and councillors Peter Graham, John Hampton and Graham Meineke all said they feared Lismore could not accommodate that many visitors on a weekend when the city's motels were traditionally booked solid for weddings and other activities.
They noted claims by organisers that many people would stay up to an hour away from the city, but said that counted against the event, because it meant Lismore would wear the cost while other communities reaped the financial benefit.
Organisers said the event was drug and alcohol-free and attended by 52 teams from across NSW of all ages and genders. Over the years it had become a popular recruiting ground for the NRL.
This year would be the first time in the carnival's 37-year history it had been held on the North Coast.
Members of the Northern United RLFC committee yesterday said the carnival