Lee Duffield

Edited by Lee Duffield
Freedom and Truth

Kyogle locals clash over car rally

Anti rally groups are preparing for more protests this weekend as the world rally competition roars into town: Meg and Jack Flickr

Anti-rally groups prepare for more protests as the World Rally Championship roars into town: Meg and Jack Flickr

Concerns over an upcoming car rally have divided the small community of Kyogle, in the northern NSW hinterland.

The art deco town known for its natural surrounds, rural lifestyle and communes is gearing up for round 10 of the  FIA World Rally Championship arriving this September 3-6.

Tree changers and environmentalists are up against the majority of the town who are in support of the rally.

Most are desperate for jobs and some cold hard cash; something they have not seen in a long time.

Local Koori elder Patsy Nagus says that the community is still recovering from last year’s flooding and jobs loses after major employer the Norply timber factory burnt down in 2005.

“It’s almost becoming a ghost town economically, we’re losing all the kids,” she says.

“We gotta [sic] build it up financially again…we need a hit like this.”

According to rally chairman Garry Connelly, the internationally renowned event is expected to bring a potential $20 million to the  region.

“It will be a major boost for the local economy, which has never experienced an event of this significance”, he says.

But many are questioning whether it will really be the job bonanza and profits feast that supporters hope.

Suzie Coluston, organiser of the Kyogle Fringe Festival running in conjunction with the rally, is cautiously optimistic.

“We will be evaluating it [the economic injection] after the event,” she says.

No Rally in the Valley protest group say the promised economic returns are inflated and that there may be negative impacts on the eco-tourism industry.

Rally organisers have also been criticised for their lack of community engagement.

“I’d like some money, cross promotion… a little bit more collaboration,” says Ms Coulston.

“Their priority is not working to benefit our community, it’s to run their event.”

Fringe Festival management, along with local charities and businesses are banking on the estimated 2,500 strong crowd of family and friends expected to join as unofficial spectators along the route.

“We’re going to enjoy watching the cars go past and heaps of friends will be over for a BBQ,” says local resident Lauren Boyd.

Protesters will be staging non-violent demonstrations across the four days of the rally.

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