BATHURST Regional Council has backflipped on its decision not to offer financial assistance to the Rotary Youth Driver Awareness (RYDA) program this year.
At Wednesday's council meeting, councillors resolved to waive up to $5000 in fees incurred for using the Mount Panorama pit complex from May 30 to June 1.
But it was not a unanimous decision.
Three councillors who have been part of the discussions between council and RYDA for more than a decade refused to support the fee waiver.
It was revealed on Wednesday that council has provided approximately $70,000 in financial support since the program's inception in Bathurst, despite a promise that RYDA would be self-sufficient after three years.
Councillors Warren Aubin, Graeme Hanger and Ian North argued that they should pay the same fees everyone else that uses the pit complex is expected to pay.
"Council's a business. We have a duty to the ratepayers of the city to run this place as a business and therefore fees that are assigned to using our assets should be charged," Cr Aubin said.
He added that the $70,000 in fees that should have been paid could have been used by council to support other groups.
Cr Aubin also criticised the organisers of RYDA for waiting until the last moment to ask for financial support year after year.
"We had a meeting in our committee room with two representatives of RYDA five or six weeks ago and they had said then they had been a bit slack and they had only just started to go out hunting for sponsorship, and that's like four or five weeks out from the event," Cr Aubin said.
"They've had 12 months and this is typical of what's been happening over the last nine, 10, 11 years."
The councillors who voted against the fee waiver suggested that the organisers hold the program at a different location to cut down on costs.
"Other places could be used. We even talk about Harris Park or the showground," Cr Hanger said.
"I spoke to somebody who was an adult from one of the schools that was there and they were of the opinion that also it could be run at other places."
Cr North concurred, saying it was the message that the program delivers that is key, not the venue at which it is held.
"It doesn't matter if you're at Mount Panorama or not. Harris Park, you could go across the road, save $700 a day - three days, there's two grand," he said.
But their arguments were not enough to win over the chamber, with deputy mayor Ben Fry and councillors Kirralee Burke (who brought the motion), Marg Hogan, Jess Jennings and Andrew Smith voting in support of the fee waiver.
"We want this kind of press in our corner. We want to be able to say we're supporting amazing things outside of just motor racing at Mount Panorama," Cr Burke said.
In addition to the fee waiver, council will meet with RYDA in the near future to discuss sustainable future funding models.
During his address, Cr Smith said the meeting was important.
He acknowledged the long history between council and the RYDA program, but said the meeting would give the group around 10 months to figure out a plan for next year.
Cr Jennings, meanwhile, wanted to see a plan put in place that would put an end to the RYDA program organisers asking for money outside of council's grant application periods.
"That has to change," he said, suggesting a multi-year funding arrangement could be put in place through a working party.
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