After the surprise announcement by Ballina’s Mayor David Wright yesterday that Lennox Point was being considered as the location for a World Surf League event in April, there has been a mixed response from the public.
Fellow Ballina councillors appear to have been sideswiped by the news, with only the mayor and council staff being invited to speak to WSL representatives after the conclusion of the last Ballina Council meeting.
Issues with the World Surf League event at Lennox include lack of infrastructure, parking, and the proposed timing of the event, which is planned to take place in an already busy period, during Easter school holidays.
David Wright’s fellow councillors not in the loop
Ballina’s Deputy Mayor Sharon Cadwallader told Echonetdaily, ‘This has not come to councillors for a decision or even comment.
‘All councillors could have been a part of the meeting but were not invited. So I am not privy to any information which would enable me make an informed comment,’ she said.
Ballina Cr Jeff Johnson told Echonetdaily he had concerns about the impact the World Surf League event would have on Lennox, particularly given the timing during school holidays, ‘when the town will already be packed.’
He said, ‘Many people, both locals and visitors will no doubt want to surf the point as a key leisure activity during this time.
‘The proposed surf comp would effectively shut the point down for ten days and prohibit both visitors and locals from surfing it.’
Cr Johnson remembers the reaction to Rip Curl’s proposed event at the point ten years ago.
‘There were huge concerns about the point being closed off, the impact on the headland with hundreds, (potentially thousands) heading up there to watch, the issues this would have for parking and traffic flows, as well as rubbish from the impact of so many people, the need for temporary toilets, crowd management, etc,’ he said.
Cr Johnson said, ‘If the event wasn’t during the school holidays and was held over a shorter period of time then it would be more workable. But from what I’ve heard I think the impact would be too great.
‘I understand that it will bring an economic boost to the town, but I predict Lennox will be booked out anyway with families, many whom will be expecting free access to the beaches including the point,’ he said.
‘You can’t just close down one of the town’s main attractions during one of the busiest times of the year.’
Cr Keith Williams told Echonetdaily the World Surf League proposal is a major event that needs careful consideration.
‘I understand the Lennox event is a one off replacement of Bells Beach due to the potential disruption caused by state borders at the moment,’ he said.
‘Assisting the world’s premier surf competition in this way is not unreasonable. It could also be fun. However, residents have already raised major concerns that need to be addressed.
‘Will competitors and officials be travelling in a bio-secure bubble? What efforts will be made to ensure there is zero spread of COVID as a result?
‘How will crowd numbers be limited? What will that limit be?’ asked Cr Williams.
And the questions don’t stop there.
‘How will the impacts on Lennox Headland be managed?’ he asks. ‘Considerable time and effort has been spent restoring native vegetation.
‘How will it be protected?
‘How will traffic and parking be managed? Will there be a base located elsewhere and buses?
‘What will be the long term benefit to the surfing reserve? What legacy will WSL leave behind to remember that time Lennox hosted Bells?
‘Not all of these questions can be answered today. But we must insist on a clear and agreed process to ensure the safety of our community and environment is paramount before any commitment is given,’ concluded Cr Williams.