A TRIATHLON based at Mt Martha aiming to attract up to 1000 athletes plus their supporters this weekend will clash with the long-established Clean-Up Australia Day effort along the foreshore.
Organisers of the four-year-old Sufferfest triathlon – previously held in November – have applied for a permit from Mornington Peninsula Shire to stage the event on 3-4 March, with the new date allowing them to take advantage of more stable weather patterns in autumn.
But, in a late development on Friday – and despite planning for the event being well advanced with courses mapped, dates locked in, entries received and contractors engaged – the shire dropped a bombshell saying it was “waiting on further documentation from the event organiser before a permit can be issued”.
Triathlon owner Scott Hollow, who lives in Mt Martha and also runs seven other triathlons across the country, could not be contacted on Friday to ask about the permit issue.
If a permit is granted the Esplanade would be closed between Mornington and Mt Martha, 6am-12 noon, Sunday 4 March, with half of Watson Road, Mt Martha closed from the Esplanade to Langrigg Avenue, 2.30-4.30pm, Saturday 3 March.
The Sufferfest website says there will be 400 bike riders on the course while the road is closed to the public, which is likely to impede Clean-up Australia Day volunteers’ access to the beach and foreshore.
Mr Hollow told The News the two-day swim-run-ride event for both juniors and seniors would “bring hundreds of competitors and visitors to the town and generate thousands for the local economy”.
But former mayor Cr Bev Colomb, whose Briars ward covers the course, said she was “hugely disappointed with the unfortunate clash of dates”.
“The council totally supports Clean-Up Australia Day and I have worked with these people for years,” she said.
“I think that big events should come through the council now that we have so many [rather than going to shire officers for approval].
“I have requested that members of the events team sit down with clean-up volunteers and map out what can be done.”
Mt Martha resident Dianne Lewis said “Clean up Australia Day has, for the past 19 years, been on the first Sunday in March”.
“[The day] brought the Australian community together to care for our local environment, yet this important event has not managed to find its way into the calendar of council’s events team.”
Ms Lewis said “closing the Esplanade that very same Sunday morning will make it almost impossible for the many volunteers who have planned and organised to be part of clean-up events – how outrageous.”
Mr Hollow said the clash of events “shouldn’t be an issue”.
“The event doesn’t mean people can’t cross the road,” he said. “We are 100 per cent aware that the volunteers are not to be inconvenienced.”
Mr Hollow said he had attempted to “thoroughly consult with Mt Martha residents” over the date’s rescheduling from November to March, but had been met with apathy. “We arranged a meeting at Mt Martha Tennis Club in October and no-one turned up.”
A $160 permit is required to hold an event on council land. The shire said permit applications were “assessed against relevant policy, local law and/or relevant acts”.
Asked what consideration was given to the clash with Clean Up Australia Day media office Emily Lees said the shire aims to work “collaboratively” with all event organisers.
“Across the peninsula, more than 30 clean-up sites are listed with the Clean Up Australia Day website. Four sites are within the event area. Triathlon organisers are working with the shire and site organisers to accommodate required access during the road closure period,” Ms Lees said.
Mr Hollow said the triathlon children’s events on the Saturday would lead into Sunday’s “marquee event” – the Mt Martha Sufferfest Long Course Triathlon consisting of a 1.9km swim, 90km ride and 21.1km run “along the beautiful Mornington Peninsula coastline”. Other, shorter triathlons cater to “those not ready for the long course but want to race on this beautiful course”.
Entry fees listed on the website range from $25-$319.
“We are aiming for this year’s event to bring at least $500,000 to the peninsula,” he said. “We’d love to see that double, triple, quadruple and more over the years.
“We are very passionate about supporting community groups with this event as well. Over the years, Sufferfest has provided over $30,000 back to local community groups who help us stage the weekend.”
Mt Martha Life Saving Club president David Mowatt said triathlon organisers had contracted the club to provide “water safety duties” during the two-day event. He said the club would be paid depending on the number of competitors.
“The triathlon is a good thing for the community because it brings people here and it’s good for our members to gain experience,” he said.
Crs Sam Hearn and Rosie Clark did not return calls from The News.