By Margaret Maccoll
Plans for a Noosa Tri being held this year, even as a scaled-down event, were knocked on the head on Monday when Noosa Councillors voted unanimously against approving any event attracting more than 500 people.
Councillors voted to accept staff recommendations to permit events of up to 500 and review the situation in February.
They also voted to support a staff recommendation to establish a COVID-19 reference group to consider upcoming event issues.
Council’s CEO Brett de Chastel said the state government had developed a framework to enable different sized events to occur with a COVID Safe Event Plan in place.
But the framework did not address issues such as public liability insurance, reputational risk to regions, financial impact on business and the tourism industry and the health impacts on a local community should an outbreak occur as a result of an event approved by Council, he said.
Prior to the meeting councillors had held discussions with stakeholders including the presidents of Hastings Street, Noosa Junction and Noosaville business associations.
In a combined letter to Council the association presidents expressed their support for a scaled down Noosa Tri event.
Emma Hull, Michael Tozer and Joel Laventure said after discussing the event with organisers, Ironman, they would support an event restricted to 3500 participants with an approved Covid-safe plan that included no spectator stands, moves to prevent spectator groupings and increased shuttle buses and ferries to reduce congregating.
Their letter followed the recent Ekka long weekend which attracted 5000 accommodation nights in Noosa.
At Monday’s meeting Cr Brian Stockwell said it was a public health decision involving a pandemic that disproportionately affected vulnerable people over 65 years.
Despite the Noosa Tri being the biggest event in Noosa’s calendar it is located at Noosa Heads where one in three residents were aged over 65 years, he said.
Councillors weighed up the short-term benefits of the Noosa Tri event and the possibility a Covid outbreak could occur and potentially lockdown the region for Christmas, leading to further economic hardship on business and tourist operators.
Cr Frank Wilkie said everyone appreciated the economic and social benefits the event beings to the community but he was not willing to risk people’s livelihoods and lives.
Cr Amelia Lorentson said if you cannot ensure safety you cannot approve the event.