Bells Beach will not host the Rip Curl Pro surfing competition this Easter with hopes it can stage the iconic surfing event later this year.
The shock move comes after the Victorian Government could not give the World Surf League (WSL) certainty it had the resources to cover the hotel quarantine costs of international surfers.
Instead the WSL competition will head over the border after the NSW Government said it had the resources and capacity to host the competitors and the event. Newcastle’s Merewether Beach will now host the fourth leg of the Championship over the Easter long weekend.
Speaking to ABC Radio Melbourne, Surf Coast Shire mayor Libby Stapleton said it was disappointing not to be able to host the “iconic” event which brings in around $8 million to the local economy.
“It attracts 35-45,000 people a year. It is an integral part of our identity and economy,” she said.
Opposition leader Michael O’Brien also slammed the Andrews Government handling of the event, saying it would tarnish the state’s reputation as the major events capital of Australia and was inconsistent with “the special arrangements made for tennis stars” during the Melbourne Open.
“This loss of this major tourism and sporting event is an international embarrassment and will cause around $10 million of economic damage to our region,” Henderson wrote on Facebook.
It’s not the only surfing upset, with Lennox Head on the NSW North Coast rejecting a proposal to host another WSL championship leg. While business leaders were in favour of the event, locals stood their ground with Ballina Council voting the proposal down.
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said it was a clear case of Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY).
“Everybody wants all the investment by government, but as long as it’s not in their backyard,” he said.
“It’s a real problem, but I’m not here to have a fight with the community.”
Business New South Wales regional manager Jane Laverty also said the council vote sent thew wrong message to event organisers.
“What’s disappointed people is that this just seemed to happen overnight,” she told the ABC.
“Decisions were made, the event was lost, our communities are being told that they are NIMBYs.
“It just doesn’t reflect well on us, this whole situation that has happened.”
But Lennox head local and surfing journalist Steve Shearer said the WSL had not consulted with the community describing the plan to hold an pro-surfing competition during the easter holidays as “insane”.
“You cannot fit another person in this town over Easter,” he told the ABC.
Once again though Newcastle has benefitted form another’s loss, with the event to be held at Merewether Beach.
Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said hosting the WSL event would inject around $15 million into the conomy.
“I’m sure the community are going to get behind this sport and also support this event, as we have done for 35 years with Surfest,” she told the ABC.