Greens councillor John Mackenzie has slammed a Newcastle City Council-commissioned analysis of last year’s Supercars weekend as a “cynical PR exercise” that ignores the race’s key costs.
“Not a single cost was included in this analysis, and no attempt whatsoever has been made to quantify the value of the negative impacts of the event,” he told the Newcastle Herald.
“This is woefully inadequate for any kind of evaluation. You can’t only assess the benefits and claim to have done a cost-benefit analysis, or even an impact assessment.”
The 61-page Hunter Research Foundation Centre report, made public late last week, says the Supercars weekend contributed an estimated $30.1 million to the Newcastle economy.
Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said the report’s findings justified the council’s decision to host the race.
The council agreed in October last year to Cr Mackenzie’s request for an independent “evaluation and event impact assessment to assess the social, economic and environmental benefits and costs” of the race.
The HRFC report describes itself as an “economic and non-economic impact assessment”, rather than a cost-benefit analysis, and “does not include the main financial cost of the Newcastle 500, which are its operating costs; nor does it seek to translate the non-economic impacts ... into monetised costs and benefits”.
What should have been an evidence-based report to put an end to the divisiveness of the Supercars event has amounted to a cynical PR exercise at best.Councillor John Mackenzie
Cr Mackenzie said the report, which will be presented to councillors at their monthly meeting on Tuesday night, was notable for what had been left out.
“By its own admission, the report fails to include the operating costs of staging the event, or the financial contribution of council to the Newcastle 500,” he said.
“It doesn’t include the direct contribution that council paid to Supercars, or the indirect contribution of ratepayers’ money in terms of staff secondments, equipment hire, and council’s promotion.
“It doesn’t consider the impact on surrounding businesses during the event or its preparations, which we know was substantial.
“It doesn’t even consider the costs associated with other events that had to be cancelled or moved as a result of Supercars. This could have been easily accommodated into the methodology.”
Read more: Supercars study reports $30 million benefits
The report includes interviews with 11 “stakeholders”, including a member of Newcastle East Residents Group, a member of the Major Events Resident Working Group, a president of a charity involved with the event, a school principal, two car enthusiasts, a representative from Newcastle Airport, and five business operators.
The researchers also reviewed resident submissions to the council, other documents provided by the council and Supercars, and a report on business impacts compiled for NERG.
The report relates negative and positive comments on the race from spectators, residents and business owners.
Read more: Race hit and miss for business
Using the results of the NERG-commissioned business report, it says a “potentially uneven spread of benefits and/or losses across individual business types should be kept in mind when looking at the overall figures for economic revenue generated”.
The study says Supercars did not provide a copy of a noise assessment report due to “reasons of commercial in confidence”.
NERG’s Christine Everingham, who was interviewed for the report, said she was “outraged” that it “barely even mentions the issues I raised in good faith and on behalf of those who bore the brunt of this event”.
“Newcastle East residents, and many businesses in the east end and CBD, will be appalled by this report,” she said. “It uses a methodology discredited by the ABS and Auditor-General reports done on the Supercars events in Canberra in 2002 and Homebush in 2010.
“It also fails to address the motion unanimously carried by councillors last October which called for a cost-benefit analysis which would have quantified the great economic losses experienced by Newcastle’s own businesses because of this event.
“It is doubtful whether ratepayers will ever know the true costs of this event.”
The $156,000 report, which used mobile phone and banking data to estimate visitor and spending figures, found the race weekend had contributed to civic pride, created employment, promoted Newcastle as a tourism destination and provided a financial windfall.
It also found the event had negative effects on some residents and businesses inside or near the track, including loss of trade, access issues and stress.
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It also said the race had bred conflict, particularly between east end residents and Supercars fans, and mistrust between residents and the council.
Cr Mackenzie said the report would not heal this rift.
“An independent assessment was intended to rebuild the community’s trust in council, especially among residents in the east end, but this has done the exact opposite,” he said.
“No expense was spared in obtaining the data to demonstrate the benefits, but no effort was made to calculate a single cost associated with the event.
“It is entirely disingenuous for the lord mayor to talk about the benefits to the city, knowing full well that this only tells half of the story.
“What should have been an evidence-based report to put an end to the divisiveness of the Supercars event has amounted to a cynical PR exercise at best.”