The bumper Noosa Tri is now sunk after Noosa Council has restricted event permit numbers to less than 500.
The bumper Noosa Tri is now sunk after Noosa Council has restricted event permit numbers to less than 500.

Ready, steady, no: Council's COVID ban blocks Noosa Tri

Mass events like the Noosa Triathlon have been banned until at least February in a unanimous vote on Monday by Noosa Council in efforts to minimise the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak.

The decision at a special council meeting on Monday to limit events to less than 500 participants has quashed the hopes of Noosa business groups who were confident Noosa Triathlon organiser Ironman could meet the COVID Safe health guidelines.

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This strict limit will be reviewed in six month's time.

Cr Brian Stockwell, who successfully moved for the restriction on issuing temporary event permits, said the vote was a public health decision.

"We are making a decision about what is normally the largest event on the Noosa calendar so it does have economic impacts," Cr Stockwell said.

"The decision criteria must place focus on the community health and our residents."

He said about a quarter of Noosa's population was in the most vulnerable COVID-19 age group, which was people of retirement age.

"It's about making the decision for the common good," he said.

"We don't know what it's going to be like in February, we could be exactly in the same situation as we are now, it could be a lot worse or or could be starting to get better."

The council will now use a special COVID-19 event reference group to access the situation early next year.

He said businesses which urged the council to allow greater numbers had to consider whether the bumper triathlon weekend crowd was worth the risk of being closed over the Christmas period due a potential outbreak arising from the event.

"Would they prefer to have enough time so those that may have booked the accommodation now for the Tri can pull out and others come in to take that?" Cr Stockwell said.

"What we're hearing is that we're getting a whole lot of the drive market coming to Noosa and to me the certainty of your accommodation bookings is also at the heart of this issue."

Noosa Tri action will be thin on the ground this year.
Noosa Tri action will be thin on the ground this year.

Cr Stockwell's fellow councillors echoed his public health reasons for the refusal and the public liability to which the council could potentially be exposed.

Mayor Clare Stewart said it was important the council took a long-term view, with a slow and steady approach to economic recovery.

"We'll continue to work with our major event organisers and do all we can to ensure they're able to return bigger and better than before, on the other side of this pandemic," she said.

"Our businesses have certainly done it tough this year, but an outbreak, and a return of restrictions, could prove a massive setback for our local economy.

"The negative economic impact of an outbreak far outweighs any benefit we might see from the short-term economic boost a major event may offer."

Noosa Triathlon swim field.
Noosa Triathlon swim field.

Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie questioned how much of a risk councillors were willing to take with Noosa's reputation as "a healthy and safe community and visitor destination".

"There's no insurance for pandemics, we've also been advised there's no such thing as a COVID safe event, you can only minimise the risk.

"We're all aware of what's happening in Victoria and as of yesterday outbreaks in five local government areas in southeast Queensland have again restricted to informal public gatherings to a maximum of 10 and (chief) health officer is recommended the use of masks," he said.

Cr Joe Jurisevic said this virus could get out of hand very quickly.

"To turn around and to try and facilitate ongoing mass gatherings when COVID is the challenge before us would only be the potential for a fatal error on our behalf," he said.

Cr Karen Finzel said the councillors were making decisions for 55,000 people in the shire.

"From the day when we started and were elected into this position, we have made decisions on shifting sands, we have made decisions around impacts which have changed sometimes within 24 hours," she said.

"We will again make a decision that benefits all in these temporary times in a global pandemic."

Cr Amelia Lorentson said the health and safety of the local community must come first.

"This is about lives not money," she said.