Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes says a big jump in pay-TV viewers shows the “exceptionally high benefit” of Supercars far outweighs the impost on east end residents.
Cr Nelmes presented a summary of the Newcastle 500’s benefits to Tuesday night’s council meeting, citing an increase in Foxtel viewers as a win for the city.
Sunday’s race attracted 291,000 viewers to Channel 10 in the five major metropolitan cities, about the same as last year’s event, but the national pay-TV audience was up more than 100,000 to 281,000.
The combined audience was 572,000 on Sunday and 463,000 on Saturday, not including free-to-air viewers outside the five capitals.
By comparison, the average audience for National Rugby League games on free-to-air television this season was 600,000 and 240,000 on Foxtel.
Neilsen ratings placed the Sunday race well above any other sport event last week in terms of social media interactions. The motor race elicited 297,000 interactions, compared with 151,000 for the second-placed Twenty20 cricket international between Australia and India.
Three councillors, the Greens’ John Mackenzie and independents John Church and Kath Elliott, told the meeting the council should do more to acknowledge the disruption caused to residents during the nine-week event bump-in and bump-out and the race itself.
“They bear a disproportionate cost of this event, much greater in terms of loss of access to their homes, significant disruption to their daily lives, general nuisance associated with noise exposure,” Cr Mackenzie said.
“This community endures this for the benefit of the rest of Newcastle … Not only do they endure it, but they endure it in good faith, they endure it in good spirits.
“ … I can recognise the people who went to the event had a good time. It was a well organised event. Many of the media opportunities that were generated for the city are of value.
“Those benefits are real, but they come at a cost, and they come at a cost to the values of that part of town.”
Cr Nelmes acknowledged the race affected Newcastle East residents and a “small group” opposed it.
But she said it was equally important to recognise the majority of east end residents embraced the event.
“We also have to make sure we represent what they want,” she said.
“I acknowledge there is an impact, but there is also an exceptionally high benefit for Newcastle and beyond.”
She said it was important for the council to speak on behalf of all residents, “and that is not necessarily a homogenous group”.
“It is also looking at how we can speak positively and talk our city up, not look at every negative we can find and talk our city down.
“It is absolutely our role to make sure we are putting our best foot forward, not just on a local stage but a national and international stage, and that’s what Supercars has done and delivered with these figures.”
Cr Church said Newcastle people had “voted with their feet” in supporting the event, which Supercars said had drawn a three-day crowd of 162,000.
But he said anger in parts of the east end was “still red-hot”, judging by his correspondence with residents, and these people had “taken a burden and a sacrifice on behalf of the city”.
The lord mayor’s summary said a Fort Scratchley fundraising event during Supercars had raised $20,000 for Got Your Back Sista.