Rally unwelcome in rainforest

The residents of the upper Tweed rainforest do not collectively spend half a billion a year preserving their peace and quiet but know it will not be enhanced by burning thousands of litres of high-grade fossil fuel in worship of the machine. Unlike the Italian Futurists, they believe that immersing oneself in nature and its rhythms can enhance human existence.

Rally Australia director, Peter Marcovich, is a Futurists through and through. After the rally’s new home was announced on September 10th 2008, he met with Tweed residents led by Greens councillor Katie Milne. He quipped at the time, that a 100 percent approval rating is difficult to achieve. When Mullumbimby residents complained that Byron Council had not even been informed about 90 high-speed racing cars snaking through the Brunswick Valley, he said the organisers would simply withdraw from the Green-leaning shire if residents felt that way.

This week, an enthusiastic Kyogle Shire Council and enthusiasts in Tweed Shire Council hosted meetings of residents who live along the route. The letter from the councils to the residents emphasised the opportunities available to locals who wanted to train for one of the thousands of volunteer positions the rally will create. Many residents not reading between the lines and not familiar with scale of the international circus of camp followers trailing in the wake of Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, thought it was a picnic day for a car club.

It is, but now that they understand that 90 high speed racing cars will have exclusive use of the roads for a week, the reality is beginning to sink in. The news that all road repairs and improvements on the route will be subject to contractual arrangements with the FIA until 2017 has caused a few mouths to drop and suddenly, the hundreds of thousands of dollars to be pumped into the local economy over the next 12 years is beginning to look like small change.

Given that the environmental policy of the organisers is to avoid areas of high biodiversity and to minimise waste and potential pollution, Hanging Rock residents think that organisers should simply go elsewhere or plan a bicycle rally instead.

If you, Dear Reader, are tempted to dismiss this as an environmental wet-blanket spoiling somebody’s red-blooded fun, you might want to review the history of the fox hunt, or bear baiting as public entertainment. Regulators have to walk a fine line between providing what people think they want, and maintaining the thin veneer that is civilisation. Tearing up the bush to demonstrate the power of the machine will be remembered historically as a prime example of twentieth century excess. We need not invite it into our homes.

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