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Newcastle 500 For Another 5 Years – Yes Or No?

Another year, another flurry of opinions and another Supercars event done and dusted.

Now what? We do it all over again for the next 5 years.

Or will we?

This decision will be made by the 13 people we elected to represent us on Newcastle City Council. It won’t be an easy one and it’s sure to be the focus of public comment, the media, and pub chat over coming weeks. And whichever way it goes, not everyone is going to happy. The councillors have an unenviable task in front of them.

Unlike some other levels of government, we expect each of our local councillors, those who live among us and share our everyday, to retain a homegrown conscience and always do the right thing by the people of the city. We’re lucky in Newcastle because we have some pretty passionate people representing us.

But it’s still a hell of a decision. And part of it is going to be a decision of conscience.

Before a decision is made, though, the City Of Newcastle (CN) has put out a survey seeking to get sufficient responses in order to gauge local sentiment about The Newcastle 500.

There are rumblings in the storm clouds already.

Prominent local businessman, Neil Slater, owner of Scratchley’s Restaurant, has been quoted as saying that, in his opinion, this decision by CN is a foregone conclusion, fearing that the council has already made up its mind.

If that is the case, what’s the point of a survey? Hopefully, the fact that it is being done, and if it is being done properly, this research will provide the data needed by our representatives to make the right decision. We have to have faith, right?

Even so, it’s a bloody tough decision.

Those for it will include the most obvious supporters –  motor racing enthusiasts. And general car lovers and thrill-seekers of all kinds. Plus, there’s all the regional folks who get the chance to see a major event like this closer to home. There’s also the music lovers who come for the fabulous headliner concerts.  And there are countless families who see it as an opportunity for a wonderful day out with the kids. There’ll be some businesses too. Without doubt, the maths for some will validate an extension of five more years.

According to the figures released, the 2023 Supercars 500 attracted over 167,000 people. There are obvious and significant economic benefits of that for the city. And there’s also the spectacular views of our humble home town flashed across screens all over the world. If you saw some of those pictures of pulchritude, you’d surely want to come to here too. So, in addition to the immediate economic injection of the race weekend itself, there is potentially a longer-term tourism benefit. So, in effect, the event is also an investment on the city’s economic future.

Should be a no-brainer, yeah?

Not so much.

Not for the councillors who have to make this decision.

The ‘against’ group includes some businesses who either don’t receive any benefit from the event or who are forced to close simply because of noise or because their customers can’t access the area. This includes eateries, shops and even beaches. While some cafes, restaurants and particularly accommodation providers benefitted from increased patronage over the weekend, others lost significant trade, with some even closing for the weekend, and some even for days or weeks prior.

And it’s not just a minor inconvenience for some business owners. One proprietor said that because they have been forced to close, their staff also have to go without their wages. This domino effect just rolls on because the staff can’t afford to purchase things from other businesses and so on it goes.

The ‘against’ group also includes many East End residents whose lives are dramatically impacted by the event’s six-week bump in and set up period then the races themselves and then three weeks of bump out and pack up. That’s about two months of noise, access restrictions, road closures and more. According to them, it’s two months of hell.

It isn’t just a minor inconvenience for these residents either. In basic terms their homes, as we know and love our homes, basically become someone else’s purview for ten weeks. Imagine that. To simply have the access to your home, that we all take for granted every day, removed from your sphere of freedom. It has to have a mighty knock to it.

And then there’s the insane noise levels and the potential damage to historic homes through the sheer vibration created as cars thunder past, just metres from the front door.  Is it any wonder that there are daily letters-to-the-editor in The Herald illuminating the rest of us about what they are having to endure? As many of the East End Residents have asked, how would you feel if it was your place?

Or are they just whingers? Or, worse still, collateral damage?

The argument really is this: Is it conscionable for CN to host an event that, according to their figures, drew over 167,000 people into the city’s eastern peninsula when hundreds of residents are affected so badly?

Does the greater good that the Newcastle 500 brings to the city outweigh the inconvenience and other significant impacts that come with it?

Or is it this: The Newcastle 500 does great things for Newcastle – does it just need to be held somewhere else?

Either way, CN councillors have a difficult decision to make.

What do you think?

Let us know in the comments…