Special legislation passed in the New South Wales Parliament last night clearing the way for the Repco Rally Australia to be held in the Tweed and Kyogle regions has prompted outcry from opponents of the event.
“Today in Parliament, the democratic process was well and truly dumped on. Supported by the Opposition, the special legislation to force the Repco Rally on the people of northern NSW was passed through the house and Ian Macdonald, Minister for State Development, ‘won’. It was a fait accompli,” said Ian Cohen, Greens MLC.
No Rally Group president Michael McNamara said: “Tweed and Kyogle residents were left bruised and bewildered after the NSW Government forced its ‘special events’ legislation to support the Repco Rally Australia through the Upper House last night.
“Despite the best efforts of Greens members and Independent the Rev Gordon Moyes, the deal that was done in the back rooms in 2008 bore fruit with the passage of the bill.”
Mr Cohen said: “Like World Youth Day, and the V8 supercars at Homebush, the NSW Labor Party has facilitated yet another incursion on our basic rights.
“This incursion involves thousands of people and racing cars descending on an internationally recognised biodiversity hotspot, Australia’s Green Cauldron. If there was ever a place unsuited to a car rally, this is it.
“The special legislation will foist a car rally on the Tweed and Kyogle shires of northern NSW this September and then a further four more rallies to be held, biennially, until 2017.
“Like many people on the North Coast, I am not surprised this legislation has passed. Whilst the rally’s organisers were taking bookings and proceeding without even lodging a development application, they assured the people of the North Coast to wait to see the rally considered by their local councils – which should be the determining authorities on such events.
“They held ‘community’ meetings but they were a sham – there was no DA and now it is clear that the whole thing was a done deal.
“In seeking to allay the concerns of the international motor sports body, the FIA, after media reports of unhappy locals, Minister Macdonald has bent over backward with this legislation to reassure them that the rally will go ahead, irrespective of any local concern.
“This bill turns off key environment and land-use planning legislation and takes away common law rights. The bill overrides the National Parks and Wildlife Act, the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, the Threatened Species Conservation Act, the Forestry Act, the Water Management Act, the Fisheries Management Act and the Local Government Act.
“The bill also gives extraordinary powers to the Minister to allow him to accommodate any requirements of the Rally organisers – and this is not restricted to the Northern Rivers region.
“The Minister can proscribe any area in NSW as part of the declared rally area by regulation. This technically means that the Minister can declare the whole State one big rally course, turn off every key piece of environmental legislation and the decision to do so would be immune from any judicial review.
“Most outrageously, Minister Macdonald has inserted a double-glazed privative clause in proposed Section 20 of the Act, which in reality represents a legislative endorsement of absolute power.
“This is probably one of most extreme privative clauses crafted at the hands of Minister Macdonald, who refuses to be accountable for his decisions. It is a total joke and this level of legislative extremism to secure commercial certainty should have been thrown out of this House.
“If this rally must go ahead, there are other areas of NSW where the impact would be less and where it would be welcomed.
“Tourists go to northern NSW is for its natural beauty. They go to see the beauty of the rainforests, the beaches, the rivers and the wildlife. They don’t go to see cars carving through these beautiful places.”
Meanwhile, Mr McNamara of the No Rally Group said: “The NSW government has confirmed that it dances to the tune of the Paris-based FIA and its president, Max Mosely, putting sectional interests above the interests and well-being of the local community.
“Speaker after speaker highlighted the legitimate community concerns about this event yet the government turned a deaf ear to the voices of local communities.
“The government has been prepared to ride roughshod over the democratic rights and the legal entitlements of local communities to force this event on us, overriding the provisions of numerous State laws.
“The only amendment to the bill was to support a review of the legislation after 12 months instead of 5 years, at least giving the community hope that, if the review is fair, they will only have to suffer one running of the event.
“Repco Rally Australia have certainly shown the government the way not to do public consultation.
“Rally organisers and their supporters will be crowing about this decision, but they should not get too cocky.
“As the old saying goes … ‘the proof is in the pudding’ … and this pudding is far from cooked.
“The economic forecasts for this event are flawed and local businesses who have supported the event should not be surprised if the money does not flow as freely as promised.
“The planned review needs to be open and fair and consultative, making public the level of taxpayer funds committed to the event and to have any credibility must include a real cost-benefit analysis”
“Rally organisers have promised a jobs bonanza and a profits feast. They must be held to account.”