More details have emerged of a secret services deed between Newcastle City Council and Supercars demonstrating the extent to which the council is beholden to the motor racing organisation.
The Newcastle Herald reported in June that documents obtained under freedom of information laws showed that the 2016 services deed was kept secret from councillors at Supercars’ behest.
The deed, which the council’s then interim chief executive officer, Peter Chrystal, signed in December 2016, sets out the rights and obligations of Supercars and its “service provider”, the council, for the five years the Newcastle 500 will be raced in the city.
Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said in June that she had not seen the services deed.
A group of Newcastle East residents gained access to parts of the deed two months ago via a freedom-of-information request, but they have now obtained a new section of the agreement which details the council’s responsibilities to Supercars.
The council’s obligations, or “services”, listed under the deed total 28 and include providing an 11,000-square metre outdoor storage space to Supercars for track infrastructure “throughout the term”, presumably five years, and a 1200-square metre indoor storage space.
Each year, the council must also provide two “track sweeping” vehicles, one for five days and another for three; a maintenance crew for 17 days; and trucks to fill water barriers at the track.
It must also maintain and prepare all park land in the circuit in the two weeks before each event “at the direction of V8SCA” and rectify the park afterwards “so that those parklands are left in the same condition as they were prior to the staging of each Event”.
“Without limitation, this Service will include the provision of an arborist employed by the Service Provider to review all trees located within parklands within the Circuit,” the deed says.
Some residents have complained that the park has been denuded of trees, despite a council planting program, and left in a state of disrepair since last year’s inaugural race.
The deed says the council will “undertake all annual capital upgrades to the parklands within the Circuit as required by V8SCA”, including footpaths and power, water and sewer infrastructure.
This will include “regular (and at least, annual) maintenance and upgrading of all roads within the Circuit, at the direction of and as required by V8SCA”.
Other council obligations include facilitating community consultation, paying for infrastructure and staff involved with managing traffic, and removing then reinstating roads signs and line markings.
The council must also notify Supercars of “all development applications” inside or beside the circuit for the next five years, or 10 years if Supercars decides to keep running the race in Newcastle.
Former Greens councillor Therese Doyle, who was on the council in 2016 but was not aware of the services deed at the time, said the costs to the council implied in the deed were “pretty huge”.
“It’s requiring a standard of maintenance that the rest of the city should have all the time. It’s way ahead of what is normally required to the rest of the city,” she said.
The document also lists the “event benefits” to flow to the council, including 100 three-day passes and a 20-person corporate hospitality suite for the “exclusive use of the service provider”.
“The contrast here is all of this expense, which I think over 10 years must come to millions of dollars, plus what we’ve actually paid them to come here, compare it with these benefits,” Ms Doyle said.
“Who gets the benefits? The ratepayers are paying for this. Why aren’t a random 20 ratepayers picked out of a hat to go to the hospitality suite, since they’re actually paying for it?”
The council said on Friday that it could not say how much it was costing ratepayers to support the Newcastle 500 because the deed with Supercars was “commercial in confidence”.
“This commercial in confidence requirement is standard for any major event the city supports,” a spokesperson said.
“Providing council services and support for events is part of our role and helps ensure Newcastle reaps the economic benefits of being a visitor destination and major events city.”
The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal ordered the council to hand over four documents related to the Newcastle 500 to Newcastle East Residents Group in April.
The council appealed against that decision but supplied NERG with redacted versions of the documents, including the redacted services deed, on the eve of that appeal last month.
NCAT is yet to announce the outcome of the appeal.
Destination NSW said in July that more than 20,500 domestic and international visitors had travelled to the Hunter “specifically to attend the 2017 Newcastle 500”, spending just over $10 million in the region.
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