Cars v councils

The news that the Alexandrina Council has joined its neighbors, the Victor Harbor and Yankalilla councils, in opposing the running of the Adelaide Hills Tarmac Rally on locally controlled roads is a blow to car rally organisers.

It now means that the event, scheduled for this weekend, will be concentrated in the Mt Barker and Onkaparinga council regions.

Organisers have already cited a fall-out from restricted routes, with a 20% drop in participant numbers from last year.

While Alexandrina Councillors are doing their job by representing the interests of their ratepayers, the decision does highlight an inconsistency of views on car rallies across the Hills and Fleurieu.

Some councils oppose them and some councils support them – all based on community feedback.

That must be frustrating for event organisers, rally participants and residents, regardless of their views on rallies.

The Adelaide Hills Council continues to wrestle with conflicting community views on car rallies.

It organised a survey last year to gauge community opinion.

The results showed more than 60% support for the events but there were complaints about the wording of the survey and allegations that the response rate was invalid.

Regardless, it would be fair to say the vast majority of people are probably ambivalent about rallies – unless they live on the regularly used roads and are directly affected.

What the Adelaide Hills Council tried to do in response to the issue was to draw up a special events and festivals policy that would deliver a consistent approach to public consultation for all events in a bid to deal with local concerns at a local level.

The jury is still out on whether that has worked in relation to the Targa Adelaide rally coming up in August.

If it does work, then perhaps a similar approach could be rolled out on a wider level, perhaps through the Southern and Hills Local Government Association.

The Courier understands that some rally organisers already have an agreement among themselves not to target the same areas all the time to allay some of the complaints of residents. A similar co-operative approach at a regional level and a consensus on what constitutes “adequate” public consultation would go a long way towards giving certainty to event organisers and reassurance to the community.

If this doesn’t happen, new State Government legislation dealing with major events just might take the issue out of local hands and into State Government hands where disgruntled residents will effectively have no say on road closures.