Local Politics Stalling the Supercars Calendar with Bizarre Consequences

    Is the Newcastle 500 in danger of being replaced as the 2024 Supercars season-opener? While the state government supports the event and the city’s mayor considers it a success, recent developments suggest that Bathurst could take its place.

    Supercars is reportedly making contingency plans to start the 2024 campaign at Mount Panorama, and this option is becoming increasingly likely. The main obstacle to finalizing the 2024 calendar has been Newcastle, and this issue has persisted for some time.

    However, it is worth noting that securing deals and finalizing dates are ongoing processes, so nothing is set in stone. The previous long-drawn-out negotiations involved Taupo, which required agreements with new governments and funding from the Major Events Fund after the closure of Pukekohe.

    The Newcastle 500 has faced opposition from the Newcastle East Residents Group, led by Christine Everingham. This vocal group has been critical of the event and has utilized local media to promote their anti-Supercars campaign. However, the Newcastle 500 has garnered significant attention and put the city on the map.

    Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes acknowledges the positive economic impact of the event on surrounding council areas. Nonetheless, the event’s future is uncertain, given the political landscape. The labor majority on the council could be at risk in the upcoming local government elections, potentially affecting the event’s fate.

    The recent community consultation commissioned by the council has also played a role in heightening uncertainties. The survey garnered mixed results, with some respondents in oppositional suburbs allegedly submitting multiple responses. Nevertheless, the consultation has caused concern among council members and particularly among Labor councillors, who may face backlash if the event continues.

    The funding for the Newcastle 500 also poses a challenge. The New South Wales government, through Destination NSW (DNSW), has offered a one-year contract for the event’s renewal. While this is intended as an interim arrangement, it has been weaponized by some councillors who argue that proper consultation with constituents has not taken place.

    The involvement of state MP Tim Crakanthorp further complicates the situation. Previously a supporter of Supercars, Crakanthorp has changed his stance based on the community consultation results. However, he faces allegations over non-disclosure of family property holdings and is under preliminary investigation, potentially endangering his position within the Labor party.

    If Crakanthorp triggers a by-election, Mayor Nelmes is considered a frontrunner for Labor’s endorsement, which could lead to her candidacy for state parliament. Consequently, Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen would be expected to take over as Lord Mayor, adding further implications to the situation.

    It is worth noting that another distraction has affected the negotiation process. Council CEO Jeremy Bath is currently under investigation for a letter-writing saga involving a friend who has an inconsistent residence history. With Bath’s absence during the September council meeting, decisions regarding the Newcastle 500 contract have been delayed.

    However, if the council continues to stall on making a decision, it effectively makes a decision by default, potentially bypassing the concerns of pro-Supercars groups and fans who attended the 2023 event. Time is currently in the council’s favor, but the Newcastle 500 will certainly resurface as a live issue during the 2025 calendar planning and the subsequent council elections.

    Although the state government supports the event and appreciates its positive impact on the city’s image, the absence of the Newcastle 500 from next year’s calendar does not necessarily mean its demise. The event’s contract involves all three parties – the council, the state government, and Supercars – so a decision will eventually need to be made.

    Negotiations regarding the Newcastle 500 are ongoing, and Supercars is still hopeful of securing its preferred option for the 2024 season. However, if teams find themselves heading to Mount Panorama again next February, it shouldn’t come as a surprise, even though the underlying reasons may raise eyebrows.

    In conclusion, the Newcastle 500’s future as the 2024 Supercars season-opener is uncertain due to several factors, including political dynamics, community consultations, and funding arrangements. While the state government and the city administration support the event, opposition from certain resident groups and council members, combined with ongoing issues, have complicated negotiations. The final decision regarding the Newcastle 500’s place in the Supercars calendar will inevitably come down to a culmination of these factors.

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