The Coffs Harbour athletics community has been working for many years to secure a site for an international standard all-weather track and field facility in Coffs Harbour to benefit the local community, as well as the wider region, but believe that Council continues to ignore local advice on the best location of the facility.
Councillors passed a motion in July 2019 supporting the establishment, in the near future, of a “permanent year round Regional Athletics Centre (RAC), consisting of an international standard 400 metre multi-lane (minimum 8) all weather synthetic-surfaced track and field facility, to be situated in the Coffs Harbour Local Government Area to service Coffs Harbour and the surrounding area and for the overall benefit of the North Coast Region”.
Richard Lynn and Nicola Johnstone, representing the Coffs Harbour athletics community believe that as a result we are no closer to seeing the RAC allocated a viable site. We are already two years into “the near future”. Richard and Nicola believe that “this highlights the complete disregard Council have for athletics and the health and well being opportunities for the community”.
“At present athletes travel three to four hours to access an all-weather synthetic surface facility. Locally, athletes can only access a sub-standard grass track for about eight months of the year, when other sports are not using the field (football, cricket, baseball etc). Access to safe infrastructure for jump and throw events (‘field events’) is even more limited. Para-athletes have nowhere to train and complete as grass is not a suitable surface and our local roads are not safe for racing wheelchairs” said Mr Lynn and Ms Johnstone.
At a workshop in April, attended by 15 key stakeholder groups, nine of those attending advocated strongly for the RAC to be placed at Bruce Barnier Oval (BBO) which is in the sports precinct – South Coffs Harbour, three said they could work could work with any site, two advised they were willing to work with athletes regarding the placement, while only the Oztag representative was opposed to the RAC being established at the sports precinct site.
“Representations were made to Oztag in December 2020 and again in late April 2021 to highlight that the RAC placement at BBO in the sports precinct will not impact the OzTag tournaments they host in Coffs Harbour. Athletes pointed out on both occasions there are over 40 fields available to OzTag in the sports precinct with the RAC in place while Oztag said they only needed 30” said Mr Lyn and Ms Johnstone.
In fact, the Coffs Harbour athletics community believes the RAC construction at BBO will “actually see the fields OzTag needs elevated by a fill-pad to reduce any impact from flooding in wet weather events, therefore providing Oztag with six flood free fields during competition, which is more than they have access to now. Oztzag also recently ecently stated they were happy to forego access to four prime OzTag fields within the main stadium for their May tournament, to preserve them for the recent NRL match, which indicates Qztag can be flexible.
Local and regional athletes question why one facility hirer who uses the field for 10 days per annum for Oztag Championships has what seems to be an inordinate say in Coffs Harbour town planning matters and wonders why the consensus views of the local community seem to be being ignored.
Flood studies commissioned by Council indicate any flooding can be mitigated via a fill-pad, similar to what they have constructed for the synthetic soccer pitches at the sports precinct to reduce flood risk and concluded the RAC would not adversely impact the surrounding area post construction, therefore flooding is no impediment to the proposal.
Richard and Nicola said that “the RAC at BBO will provide significant social, physical, health and wellbeing benefits to the entire Coffs Harbour community and regions all year round and finally provide a safe place for the disability sector to train and compete on appropriate surfaces. It presents significant economic opportunities when built, when hosting major championship events and providing a base for international track and field teams to train in the ideal climate prior to the Brisbane Olympics in 2032, if the bid is successful.
The sports precinct already has purpose-built infrastructure such as adequate car parks, bus bays, footpaths, cafe, administration building and areas for warm up.
To place the RAC at the alternative site on York Street Oval (pictured above), the preferred site of Council staff, would be a terrible town planning decision as it would fence off community access to the only open green space in the highest density residential area in Coffs Harbour. In addition, the field is not available to athletics for another 11 years as it is heavily used by Northern Storm Football, meaning Council would struggle to meet its commitment to “the near future”.
“In addition, traffic is already heavily congested at York Street Oval, two new intersection upgrades would be required, parking is woefully inadequate, there is no ease of access for the disability sector or bus access for transporting school children to events. Hours of operation would be constrained due to the close proximity to residents and the new aged care facility. A stand-alone facility in this location will also struggle to attract major State and National competitions or host visiting international teams.
Bruce Barnier Oval, in the sports precinct, is the only sensible option” said Mr Lynn and Ms Johnstone.
The above is a Media Release on behalf of the Coffs Harbour Athletics community- June 4 2021.
Here is an earlier story on this from the local football community that CCO published recently; https://coffscoastoutlook.com.au/sports-groups-thinks-councils-york-street-sport-centre-proposal-is-nuts/