Mud flies as dust settles
AS THE Coffs Coast weighs up the financial benefit from Rally Australia, there's a weight of expectation on the NSW Government's official report of visitor numbers and figures projecting the economic boost to the region.
Praised by organisers as the best location for the World Rally Championship's Australian round, the Coffs Coast attracted a spectator count of 86,000 people - accounting for repeat visits by fans to all stages and rally-associated functions.
As market research gets under way to improve the rally business model, there's been community feedback that the economic return has been widespread but varied.
Cafes, food and retail stores, restaurants and hotels in Coffs Harbour, Lowanna, Ulong and throughout the Nambucca Valley have reported roaring trade over the four days.
Yet some Coffs Harbour Jetty business owners say Rally Australia backfired and failed to generate the expected boost to their businesses.
The Jetty Business Group will this afternoon meet at the Pet Porpoise Pool to discuss the facts and figures of the rally.
Coffs Harbour Deep Sea Fishing Club secretary manager Malcolm Devine reported the club had solid trading before, during and after the harbourside super special stages.
"The event was great for Coffs Harbour, the racing was spectacular. Would we welcome it back tomorrow? Absolutely, but the size of the rally crowd and their spending patterns were not quite what we were initially led to believe they would be," Mr Devine said.
Coffs Harbour Yacht Club commodore Garry Innes said the club recorded a record week of trade for September.
"It was little shaky to start with, the weather wasn't the best, but it paid off for us in the long run, and we look forward to 2013 and the Coffs Harbour City Council and Rally Australia bringing the world championship back to Coffs Harbour," Mr Innes said.
That sentiment was echoed by businesses near the rally routes in Lowanna, Ulong, Nana Glen and Bowraville.
However, Jetty strip cafe and restaurant owners and market stall operators say the rally backfired for their businesses due to road closures and preparations for crowds that never eventuated.
"The rally drew away our local clientele and the rally clientele that was here just wasn't interested," Hog's Breath owner and Jetty Business Group spokesman Justin Squires said.
Marcus Blackwell of Latitude 30 said his business experienced a downturn of $20,000 over the rally weekend. "We didn't do a lot of meals for rally fans, we catered more to the corporate arm of the rally, the teams and the WRC officials, but unfortunately we didn't do well out of it at all," Mr Blackwell said.
Mark and Alex Hawkins, owners of Fiasco, signalled their disappointment.
"Everyone here on the Jetty strip put so much effort in and we have all been left really disappointed and let down," Mrs Hawkins said.
Coffs Harbour City Council general manager Steve McGrath responded to the business owners' concerns saying the council was not the consent authority for road closures at the Jetty.
"They were made as part of the Homebush Motor Racing Authority approval process," he said.
"To the best of my knowledge there were no requests by council that individual operators should do certain things in their business.
"Any decisions made by individual businesses were made at their own discretion."
Destination NSW's report on Rally Australia - Coffs Coast will be tabled in State Parliament once it is complete in four to eight weeks' time.