Back in the day before COVID-19, a competitor crossing the Noosa Triathlon finish line in front of big crowd.
Back in the day before COVID-19, a competitor crossing the Noosa Triathlon finish line in front of big crowd.

So Tri-ing: Business leader warns of costly Noosa events cap

Tourism gold mine the Noosa Triathlon would almost certainly be cancelled for a second year if Noosa Council votes on Tuesday to retain its hard line COVID-19 cap on major event numbers until at least next February.

And an unimpressed Noosa Chamber of Commerce president Rob Neely believes a recommendation by senior council staff to retain entry levels as part of temporary events permits to less than 500 people will cost the Noosa businesses more than 100,000 lost room nights.

Noosa Tri still in limbo as council review delayed

Cancelled Noosa Tri just doesn't make sense

The Noosa Triathlon scheduled tentatively for October this year attracts 7000 entrants with many more thousands packing Noosa as part of the associated multi-sports festival.

Off and racing for the Noosa Tri.
Off and racing for the Noosa Tri.

"This position presents significant economic impacts to our businesses and employees and will damage Noosa's brand significantly," Mr Neely said.

He said this recommendation had been reached without "full and open discussion" with key industry leaders and groups like the chamber and the council's own business roundtable .

Mr Neely said the chamber has requested council allow Noosa Shire to host events within the State Government's approved framework for COVID Safe events.

This would enable Queensland's chief health officer Dr Jeannette Young to assess local events of more than 10,000 for possible approval.

"If the staff report is adopted it will cost the Noosa businesses over 100,000 lost room nights, after the vaccination rollout will be finished in October this year," Mr Neely said.

Once council decided to severely restrict entries last August, organiser The Ironman Group contacted entrants to advise them of the cancellation and Mr Neely believes the outcome will be the same if council extends the strict quota.

Ironman head of operations Rebecca Van Pooss has not flagged as yet what action will follow if council sticks with the present crowd limit.

Ms Van Pooss said her group will also be asking council to align with Queensland Health's Industry framework for COVID Safe events.

"We know how to hold events in a COVID Safe manner, in the region we held Ironman 70.3 Sunshine Coast last year and in two weeks' time will run the Mooloolaba Triathlon," she said.

"Our team has experience in delivering events that have the safety of athletes and the wider community at their core.

"The Noosa Triathlon plays an important role in the region and we know we can run it in a COVID Safe manner," Ms Van Pooss said.

The council report co-authored by corporate services director Michael Shave and property manager Clint Irwin highlights divisions within its own COVID-19 reference group.

Noosa Triathlon 2019 played out to a big crowd.
Noosa Triathlon 2019 played out to a big crowd.

Mr Shave and Mr Irwin said while the group supports allowing larger events, there is not unanimous support for this position within the group.

"This divide is reflected in (community) stakeholder group feedback with some in favour of council retaining its precautionary approach, while others are more comfortable with council relaxing its position and adopting the state framework," the report said.

Mr Shave and Mr Irwin concede their recommendation is out of step with other local governments and does not align with the state's framework.

However they found any further COVID-19 transmission risks immediate financial damage and longer term reputational damage to Noosa.

"Arguably, businesses stand to lose much more by reintroduced lockdowns borne of a council approved event than they would have ever gained economically from the event itself," they said.

"The country's vaccination program commenced in February 2021 and offers the hope of a return to normal life, however the roll out will take months to complete and the efficacy of the program is unknown.

"Council's investigations have highlighted there are still currently no insurance products available which are free of COVID-19 exclusions and this is unlikely to change for the remainder of 2021," their report said.

They said council faces increased financial risk by allowing large events to proceed without adequate insurance.