Tweed ratepayers have been left out of pocket by more than $100,000 by the organisers of the controversial world motor rally run through the Tweed and Kyogle shires in 2009.
A Tweed Shire Council spokesman told Echonetdaily that Council was still owed $104,000 by Speed on Tweed Pty Ltd, of which Rally Australia and Murwillumbah Rotary Club are the two shareholders.
The debt related to the stand-alone Speed on Tweed historic-car event run at Murwillumbah Showground last year.
And Coffs Harbour City Council, which hosted the world rally championship last year was up till this week chasing $277,678 owed from running event in the mid north coast area last September.
The Tweed-based No Rally Group says ratepayers in both areas have little chance of recouping the money, while Rally Australia says it’s waiting for a large amount of money owed to it by the state government’s Events NSW (now Destination NSW) which funded the event to the tune of millions of taxpayer dollars.
The amount funded by the state government has always been kept secret and the state forced the event onto Tweed shire as opposition grew, with special legislation pushed through parliament to enable the event to be run.
The minister responsible for the event at the time, Ian Macdonald has since been disgraced over a massage-for-favours scandal involving developer and alleged killer Ron Medich.
Ironically, Tweed council general manager Mike Rayner, who retires from the council at the end of this month, was repeatedly criticised by some councillors and the anti-rally group for accepting a position on the board of the Rally Australia during and after the rally.
But Mr Rayner defended his role, saying he had nothing to do with the organisation or administration of this event because there were two Rally Australia board members appointed to the board of Speed on Tweed and he was not one of them.
‘Furthermore I resigned my position on the Rally Australia board on November 3, 2010, less than two months after the Speed on Tweed event, effectively removing the opportunity to positively influence outcomes for the benefit of the Tweed including the finalisation of payments,’ he said.
‘There are commercial negotiations ongoing in relation to the recovery of the debts owed and therefore it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this time.’
Coffs Harbour Cr Mark Graham said he was alarmed ‘that a quarter of a million dollars was not reported to councillors as being outstanding’ and it was not until he asked questions about it that it was confirmed.
He told Echonetdaily he was concerned that negotiations had been in progress for the next round of the rally while debts were still unpaid from last year.
But Coffs Harbour mayor Keith Rhoades told ABC Radio the debt had been settled this week.
Cr Graham said ‘if it was a ratepayer who owed that much to council they would feel the full force of the law’.
NRG’s Michael McNamara said both councils should have done more research before agreeing to support the race, and Tweed council and its councillors who supported it had a lot to answer for.
Mr McNamara said the rally business model is ‘shonky’ and shouldn’t be supported by any level of government.
Rally Australia chairman Ben Rainsford told ABC Radio that the debts had taken a month longer than originally predicted to clear but that he was confident they would be soon be settled.
Mr McNamara said the rally in both Tweed and Coffs Harbour areas failed to make good on supporters’ claims it would be an economic boost to the areas, as surveys since had pointed out impacts on business were negligible.
In the Tweed, promises by Rally Australia to plant thousands of trees to offset carbon emissions failed to materialise, with volunteer groups rejecting overtures for them to do the work.