Gunnedah Shire Council has approved additional financial assistance for the 2024 Weeks of Speed, amid fears from event organisers it could be “poached” by other towns seeking to benefit from the concept.

Councillors at the February ordinary meeting of council endorsed a waiver of 50 per cent of fees to hire council facilities and equipment for 2024 Weeks of Speed event organisers.

Council will also pay for road closure costs of up to $5000 for the community street parade to be held on Saturday morning.

The above financial assistance will be placed on a 28-day exhibition in accordance with Section 356 of the NSW Local Government Act 1993 and the contribution will be endorsed if no submissions are received.

The endorsed council motion also requested the Tamworth Drag Racing Association and Gunnedah Motoring Enthusiasts present a report to council no later than the July ordinary meeting informing council of event attendance and estimated economic impact.

It was noted that council currently budgets $7500 annually to directly support Weeks of Speed through regional TV, local radio and print advertising.

The event subsidy followed a letter to council from Weeks of Speed chairman Ray Darcey which outlined the event’s 26-year history in Gunnedah and the risk it could be taken up by other towns.

“If Weeks of Speed does not regain its spark, we are running the risk of other councils poaching it,” Mr Darcey said.

“Coffs Coast Festival of Motorsport have successfully run their festival after visiting Gunnedah, taking on board the concept.

“The town of Forbes stepped in and ran the Australian Dirt Track titles that were not able to be conducted in Gunnedah in 2022. Gunnedah lost a huge economic boost in that event.”

The letter to council listed 16 events staged in Gunnedah last year for the Weeks of Speed and the positive economic benefit for the town throughout the month-long program.

Geoff Hood from Gunnedah Motoring Enthusiasts delivered a presentation at the council meeting to support the argument for financial assistance.

He said independent analysis estimated the total economic benefit to be more than $1 million to the Gunnedah shire economy over the course of the festival.

Mr Hood said community groups also stood to benefit.

“We need to build capacity of organisations to remain sustainable in the long term,” Mr Hood said.

Tamworth Drag Racing Association (TRDA) president Bill Ausling also spoke at the meeting.

He said the association has been running events at Gunnedah Airport during Weeks of Speed since the event’s inception almost three decades ago.

Mr Ausling estimated their two events held during March for Weeks of Speed would attract about more than $100,000 in tourism revenue for the Gunnedah shire – that’s in addition to a further $100,000 for regular TRDA events held at Gunnedah Airport throughout the year.

Some Gunnedah shire councillors were supportive of the Weeks of Speed reduced fee waiver and financial assistance.

“The economic benefits of the event dramatically outweigh the additional cost incurred by council,” councillor Kate McGrath said.

“Considering we’ve always been an active partner in the delivery of this, I don’t think it’s a controversial thing to support.”

Meanwhile councillor Robert Hoddle highlighted the financial assistance already provided to part of the 2024 Weeks of Speed program, such as the Country Music Muster held at the Gunnedah Showground. In November, council approved a 50 per cent reduction in this event’s facility hire fees.

“We cannot keep going this way, it’s a complete muddle … we put in fees and charges and then we turn around and start giving concessions. There’s no future in that,” Cr Hoddle said.

Councillor Ann Luke was conflicted about her decision on the financial assistance.

“I’m torn between what I have to do in respect to the ratepayers and the funds they would be subsiding as opposed to the good things that come from [this event]. It is a very difficult position for council to be in,” she said.

“There are many organisations in the community that could argue to have their fees waived.”

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