Mayor: Grand Prix is ‘50M Waste’

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Councillor Rachel Powning, the Mayor for the City of Port Phillip has slammed the Albert Park Grand Prix, questioning its relevance to Melbourne’s culture and criticising the high taxpayer cost.

Rachel Powning

In an exclusive interview with St Kilda News, Powning declared the Australian Grand Prix, now in its seventeenth consecutive year at Albert Park, to be an event that’s “disconnected from Melbourne’s culture.”

“I feel that in terms of a sport, it’s losing its relevance to Melbournians,” Powning says, citing a lack of public interest in motor vehicles as part of the problem.

“Australia as a whole is becoming less of a car centric region. People are reducing to one car per family and we’re becoming less car dependant.”

Powning’s comments come amidst a challenging month for the event with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone suggesting that he would entertain the option of terminating the event before the Albert Park contract expires in 2015.

Ecclestone has previously hinted at the prospect of moving the sport into more lucrative international markets, such as Singapore. In an interview with The Herald Sun last month the 81-year-old business tycoon suggested that if new markets were identified, Melbourne would be one of the first races to be axed.

Public support for the event has also wavered, with crowds continuing to decline each year and local businesses questioning the economic benefits that the event brings to the bay side suburbs.

Peter Logan, spokesperson for Victorian protest group Save Albert Park added to the debate, describing the Melbourne Grand Prix as a “triple bottom line disaster that has a negative economic impact.”

“Let’s have some honest analysis of the facts,” suggested Logan, accusing the Victorian Government and Grand Prix Corporation of making misleading economic claims about the event.

A media release issued by the well-publicised group provides that “a majority of local businesses surveyed… either suffered a decrease in trade or experienced no change during the grand prix period.”

“The Grand Prix Corporation will say that more than 100,000 spectators attended the F1 race. It’s a lie. The crowd to be seen at Albert Park won’t even reach 70,000.”

Councillor Powning admits that although the City of Port Phillip cannot make key decisions to relocate or remove the event, they are continually advocating their thoughts to the State Government.

“Sponsors are falling off, attendances are down. It looks to me that the writing is on the wall,” says Powning, who is currently in her second term as Mayor.

“It’s obvious that taxpayer money could be put to better use,” she said, citing local education concerns as a more pressing issue than the staging of the international event.

“In the city of Port Phillip we are in desperate need of new schools and we’re in desperate need of more childcare centres.”

“Let’s stop using a public park for private profit and instead put the money back into the community,” Cr Powning said.

By Ben Campbell

Ben Campbell is a freelance journalist and regular St Kilda News contributor. View and comment on his work online at www.bencampbell.com.au.

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