Northern NSW could produce our next Olympic track and field champions but Council ‘needs to act now.’

Australia have had one of their most successful Olympic campaigns in track and field, securing a silver and two bronze medals, and several top ten finishes.

Our swimmers secured nine gold, three silver and nine bronze.

A point of difference is access to dedicated facilities, to support and nurture our grass roots athletes.

Regional towns in NSW can boast at least one swimming pool in which to train and develop future swimming Olympians. Unfortunately, this is not the case for track and field athletes in regional NSW who have woefully inadequate access to any dedicated facility.

Coffs Harbour Athletics Nicola Johnstone says that “despite being a major regional centre, Coffs Harbour has no dedicated track and field home. Even the part-marked grass track is often inaccessible due to cricket camps, baseball, football or community use. There are no year-round quality facilities for high jump, long jump or the throwing events. Para-athletes continue to have access to absolutely no facilities as they can’t train for any events on grass.”

“Enough is enough Council. Athletics is not asking for funding, just allocate a site’ Ms Johnstone said.

“Bruce Barnier Oval is the only logical site that is accessible in the near future. Starting from scratch again, and suggesting the investigation of a ‘greenfield’ site at this late stage of the process is a waste of time and money, as the range of sites were investigated three years ago.

“For too long our athletes have been let down by a Council who have a complete disregard for one of the largest participatory sports on a global stage – track and field. The inaction of Council over several decades is astounding and the recent motion by Councillors, based on Council staff recommendations, has essentially put the Regional Athletics Centre in the ‘too hard basket’.

“Council’s clear preference, as stated openly at the recent Council meeting, is to appease OzTag at all costs, to the detriment to local athletes and the community more broadly” Ms. Johnstone said.

It is no coincidence the USA is the dominant force in track and field. They acknowledge the need for dedicated synthetic track and field facilities and establish them at most high schools across the USA.

In NSW, the only synthetic track and field facilities outside of the Greater Sydney and Newcastle area are at Dubbo, Maitland and Tamworth.

Coffs Harbour has a unique opportunity to fill a void on the north coast of NSW and provide a state-of-the-art Regional Athletics Centre where the next generation of athletes can start their journey towards Brisbane Olympics 2032.

Every child in our local primary and high schools could be the next track and field Olympian, competing in Brisbane in 11 years, given the right training environment now.

Ms Johnstone said “Coffs Harbour City Council, you know what the right decision is, allocate Bruce Barnier Oval in the sports precinct for the Regional Athletics Centre immediately. Don’t continue to delay this easy decision any longer. Your inaction not only affects the Coffs Harbour local government area, but also aspiring athletes between Newcastle and the Queensland Border”.

Track and field are inclusive, global sports that will bring many social and economic benefits to the region, including health and wellbeing benefits to our community.

“Council – don’t be content with a handful of OzTag championships visiting Coffs Harbour for 10 days of the year – that is a small-town mentality. Coffs Harbour can achieve much more in terms of sporting prowess with a state-of-the-art Regional Athletics Centre, particularly in the lead up to the Brisbane Olympics.

Ms Johnstone said “it was time Bill Harrigan to support the sharing of the sports precinct”.

This is our community, but you seem to have a stronger voice at the decision-making table, so get on board with the Regional Athletics Centre. Don’t stifle the hopes and dreams of our young athletes any longer with your refusal to share Bruce Barnier Oval. Council will listen to you, but seemingly they won’t listen to their own community”. Ms Johnstone said.

Coffs Harbour can play a vital role in the development of athletes to an national and international level, so let’s not just be spectators.

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The above is a media release from Coffs Harbour Athletics – Monday 9 August 2021.

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