How people power sent the World Surf League packing
More than 100 people turned up at Ballina Shire Council's meeting on Wednesday to show their opposition to a proposed World Surf League event at Lennox Head.
They had signs, they cheered and booed when councillors spoke, and celebrated when councillors rejected the idea.
Council staff have already written to the WSL to break the bad news.
It was a short, but successful, people power campaign.
Concerned locals had worked hard to make sure their voices were heard ‒ they incessantly phoned councillors, sent emails and rallied on social media.
A number of councillors mentioned their phones had been running hot since the news leaked about the WSL's plans.
Local resident and surfer Ben Holmes spoke at the council meeting.
He said many people would be impacted by a WSL event ‒ older residents, newer residents, surfers, bikers, hikers and local businesses were among the groups he mentioned.
"We're very concerned about the lack of communication to the public and the time for people to prepare a response or to feel like they have some sort of say," Mr Holmes said.
"It doesn't sit very well with a number of people.
"There could have been some discussion, some compromise … to determine how this structure takes place to satisfy the majority."
Nick Mercer also spoke at the meeting, and talked about COVID-19 concerns and the impact that a lockdown would have on local businesses.
"A decision to host an event which is meant to support the local economy could actually hinder it," he said.
Despite the vocal opposition at the council meeting, there were some groups in the community who liked the idea.
Le-Ba president Ben Beesley told Stab Magazine his committee had backed the WSL's moves to come to Lennox.
"Anyone who has families in the area, from what I got all the kids were super excited to see all their pro surfer idols coming to the area," he said.
"The benefits that they were going to give to our club and community was phenomenal in the way that they were going to support L- Ba and all the kids and juniors, and wildcards into Pro Junior events.
"That's why I was all for it."
But veteran Lennox Head surfer Don Munro ‒ and former Le-Ba president ‒ said the WSL's plans were "totally impractical".
"I was stoked and proud to see the solitary from the local community," he wrote on Facebook.
"Le-Ba and their administration got it totally wrong … their reasons for wanting the contest were piss poor and selfish to say the least.
"They obviously were not concerned about the major ramifications involved or the impact it would have on the local community.
"It must be emphasised that Le-Ba does not represent or speak for the local surfing community."