Henning Solberg on the CTEK West stage held on the outskirts of Kyogle in 2009.
Henning Solberg on the CTEK West stage held on the outskirts of Kyogle in 2009. Cathy Adams

Kyogle still split over rally

GEORGINA Steriovich would be starting to think about ordering extra stock and finding casual workers to gear-up for the World Rally Championship event if it were being held in Kyogle again this year.

Instead, the Kyogle cafe owner is thinking about what could have been and is lamenting the loss of the event to Coffs Harbour. Others are happy to see the back of the rally and say it won’t be missed.

Following controversy surrounding planning for the event and concerns it would adversely impact on the environment and local residents, the first of what was to be a number of bi-annual WRC rallies was held in the Northern Rivers from September 3-6 in 2009. Several stages of the event were held in Kyogle, attracting visitors to the town and providing an boost to some local businesses.

Despite attracting visitors on the ground and the second largest television audience of any WRC event that year, the rally was moved to Coffs Harbour following a decision by the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) in October.

At the time a spokesperson for CAMS said the decision had been “bloody hard”, but conceded environmental conditions put forward following an independent review of the 2009 event has influenced the decision.

Ms Steriovich, who owns the Kyogle Country Cafe, said business at her cafe was brisk over the period of the 2009 event, and that she is disappointed to not be looking forward to the event.

“We would know what to expect this time, we would have been so much better organised and I think we could have worked together as a community to make it work,” she said.

Michael McNamara is the former president of the No Rally Group, which was vocal in its opposition to the rally.

“We are pleased they went, and we will continue to challenge the records of economic boom-times. Where some individual businesses did do well out of the rally, over the entire business community the impact was zero or negative,” he said.

“The rally to us was an example of the inappropriate development that should not be allowed on the Northern Rivers,” he said.

“I understand the concerns of those who were opposed to the rally, and it was a real pity it caused friction in our community, but I think those opposed to the rally and those who enthusiastically supported it could have met somewhere in the middle and we’d all have had a win,” Ms Steriovich said. 

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