THE staging of the Sufferfest Triathlon at Mt Martha in March is “up in the air” while Mornington Peninsula Shire Council reviews its events policy.
Community consultation on the proposed policy closes on Friday 1 February – just weeks before the triathlon is scheduled to run on 23-24 March.
However, bookings for the triathlon are being taken on a website that makes no mention of the need for council permission.
Last year’s triathlon clashed with Clean-Up Australia Day and required closing of the Esplanade from Mornington to just around the corner from Safety Beach.
Shoppers at Mt Martha arrived to find car parks either roped off or filled with vehicles belonging to triathlon competitors and their supporters.
Bike riders failed to stop for red lights at the pedestrian crossing leading to the beach.
The shire’s draft events policy aims to “provide a clear decision-making framework that identifies the economic, environmental and social costs and benefits to the community of any event” as well as “outlining pricing guidelines that address not-for-profit, community and for-profit events”.
Organiser of the 2019 Mt Martha Sufferfest Triathlon Scott Hollow was last week coy about the triathlon’s scheduling. “I’ve been talking to the council for the past six months but the [draft events] policy is still to be ratified,” he said on Friday. “Nothing can happen at the moment. We are in limbo.
“We can’t run the event without certainty. We have got plans B, C and D, but it’s still up in the air.”
Mr Hollow said the draft events policy “doesn’t make sense”.
“I’ve been in discussions with the events team and I have no problems with the policy, I just need to be clear about it.”
The events policy will aim to prevent the kind of clash of dates that last year saw Clean-Up Australia Day held at the same time as the triathlon at Mt Martha.
Cr Bev Colomb said she was “hugely disappointed with the unfortunate clash of dates” which could jeopardise the success of the long-running clean-up event (“Triathlon a roadblock for volunteers” The News 26/2/2018).
This year’s clean-up event is on Sunday 3 March and the triathlon scheduled for the weekend of 23-24 March.
Residents and business people have been invited to comment on the draft policy which was workshopped with councillors and “key internal stakeholders”.
Events will be placed into categories with pricing guidelines and bonds. Lower fees will be charged in off-peak periods from 1 May-30 September than for peak periods from 1 October-30 April.
Events will also be categorised for their risk – such as low, medium or high – with a bond for high impact events to pay for damage to council-owned property or equipment.
High impact events – such as triathlons – will require consultation as well as an event brief to be submitted and considered by councillors.
In a first, medium and high impact event applicants will need to explain how their event meets the shire’s “economic, social and environmental principles”.
Mr Hollow suggested other less-contentious sites for the racing might include Safety Beach which, although under the same council, may have less stringent amenity restrictions.
He last year paid $160 for a permit to host the event and received it only the week before – despite hundreds of competitors pre-paying entry fees.
Mt Martha resident David Mason was critical of the draft events policy being opened for public comment “at the beginning of the festive and holiday season”.
“It is open for public comment/submission until 1 February and after that will be presented to council for adoption. There will be an advertisement in the local papers but, as experience shows, the vast majority of people will not hear about this.”
Mr Mason said residents should provide feedback to the council to protect their beach, launching ramp, shops, car parks and local roads.
“Events have created huge disruption to residents in the past, but this policy should address the problem. We support the council in addressing this issue and look forward to stopping the road closures.”
Mr Mason said commercial events promoters loved “spin”.
“They regularly try to claim a link to a charity,” he said. “The bottom line is that the only purpose they have is to boost their own bottom line.
“Entry fees do not go to charities. Competitors are asked to arrange their own sponsorship for charities.”