Triathlon protest threat

BIKES AT THE KEYS: The Challenge Forster Triathlon will be held in November. GREAT Lakes Council has confirmed the Challenge Forster triathlon will still go ahead in N​ovember despite Pacific Palms residents threatening to protest over planned road closures.

A community consultation was held on Monday June 30 between council, Challenge Forster event organiser Elite Energy’s CEO Mark Emerton, NSW Police representatives and about 18 residents from the Pacific Palms area.

The meeting was held after last year’s Challenge copped widespread criticism from residents, particularly those in the Forster Keys and Pacific Palms areas, over road closures which resulted in increased traffic delays in the Forster CBD.

Council’s director of engineering Ron Hartley said council and Elite Energy decided to make some significant changes to this year’s event in the hope that it will run more smoothly.

Changes include the relocation of bike turnarounds. The bike leg will start at Forster Keys, with the first turnaround point now at Tarbuck Bay, the second at Blueys Beach and the leg finishing in the Forster township.

Mr Hartley said another change is having the two smaller events, the enticer and the sprint, on the Saturday morning and the main Challenge event on the Sunday morning.

He said the fastest finish time of the bike leg with the new turnarounds is predicted to be about 8.45am with the slowest time predicted to finish about 10.36am.

He said by spreading the event over two days it will enable organisers to get the bikes off the course much earlier in the morning and open the course up to residents in the Pacific Palms area.

“Most of the changes to the event happened before the meeting so the main thing was to let people know what the changes were and see if there were opportunities for change,” he said.

“Several alternatives were suggested involving the relocation of the triathlon to Tuncurry or central Forster, including the closure of the Wallis Lake bridge.

“But the suggestions would have a far greater impact on many more residents so the suggestions were discounted.

“The use of The Lakes Way between Forster and Pacific Palms is already approved and on that basis is firm.

“Substantial improvements have been made to the previously used route.

“We understand the frustrations of residents with last year’s event and council has tried to minimise the impact on residents.”

The event attracted just over 1,200 competitors last year, bringing in about 2,500 spectators and generated close to $750,000 in accommodation alone for the region.

David Shaw, who lives in Pacific Palms and operates Forster Pacific Palms Real Estate, was one of the 18 residents who attended the June 30 meeting.

He believes the new changes will not make a positive difference to businesses and residents in the Pacific Palms area.

“We’re (residents) not against the triathlon we’re against the road closures because it affects our business severely,” he said.

“I know the reality, 10.30am turns into 12.30pm. I will have to close my business for the day.

“Yes the event brings financial benefit but to a small amount of business in Forster and Tuncurry, no one else.

“At the end of the day there’s no business out here that benefits from having all their roads closed.”

Mr Shaw said he has since written to council with a suggestion to move the first bike turnaround to the Pacific Palms Recreational Club instead of Tarbuck Bay.

“It’s an easy solution and won’t affect anyone locally only people going back into Forster,” he said.

Mr Shaw says if the road closures remain the same then he and other residents in the Palms will be forced to take action on the day of the event.

“We’re going to protest because we’re sick of all the road closures. There’s no other option at the moment. I’d just like to see council actually consult with people about it.”

Mr Hartley, who was not at the meeting, says council will consider all suggestions raised on the night. He also said there was still an opportunity for people to write to council if they had any concerns about the changes to the event.

The Challenge Forster Triathlon will be held in November.

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