Finnish rally driver Mikko Hirvonen competing in last year’s Repco Rally Australia near Kyogle in his Ford Focus.
Finnish rally driver Mikko Hirvonen competing in last year’s Repco Rally Australia near Kyogle in his Ford Focus.

Rocky road ahead for Repco rally

DESPITE the controversy surrounding last year's Repco rally, which included stages being abandoned due to concerns for driver safety, Garry Connolly believes rally organisers and protesters could reach middle ground.

“I believe there is a middle ground that could be reached for 90 per cent of those against the rally,” he said.

“Some protesters have very genuine concerns and we tried to address most of them, but in some cases we couldn't.

“On the other hand, there are people who rolled boulders on to Byrrill Creek Road. And make no mistakes about it, there were boulders placed on the road. But as to whether rocks were thrown that is the subject of some debate. We don't know and may never know.

“But the rocks were placed in the middle of the road and our senior officials removed them seconds before the first car went through.

“That was done by people that I doubt we could ever reach middle ground with, because if you are willing to risk injury or death with other people then I don't know if we can negotiate with those types of people.”

However, Mr Connolly admits rally organisers vastly underestimated the level of antagonism in some parts of the community.

“Definitely. We hope to have community working groups, which the board has agreed to set up next year, but we should have done that in the first year,” he said.

Mr Connolly said the working groups would involve representatives from the community and would act as a further consultation process.

He said organisers learned a lot from the 2009 event and that a new route, which may bypass areas of most concern to protesters, could alleviate much of the conflict.



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