The forced cancellation of November's L'Etape cycling event has brought joy to some and angered others, while Kiama's mayor is "bitterly disappointed" saying it tarnishes the reputation of the regions.
Lateral Events, which produces the Tour de France affiliated race,announced it had no choice but to cancel it because Shoalhaven Council withdrew support for the multi-year event despite strong backing from Kiama and the Southern Highlands.
Kiama Mayor Mark Honey said it was a "complete and utter overreaction" from his southern counterparts.
"I don't think the councillors looked at the overall benefit it was going to have for the area rather than just some individuals being disaffected," he told the Mercury. "The road closures were not a full day, only for a period of time while the race was going through that area ... and [organisers] had done a lot to change their schedule so that there would be less time on road closures.
"Anyone else who would like to do a large event in this area will have a look at what L'Etape has been through and say 'no .. we'll go somewhere else'."
Cr Honey said he also saw the event as a way to reactivate businesses post-lockdown, not only in his own town but surrounds as well.
L'Etape was previously predicted to boost the local economy by about $2.5 million thanks to the thousands of cyclists, their friends and families who would descend upon the region, according to Destination NSW. The race provides amateur cyclists with the closest experience to riding a 136km mountainous stage of the Tour de France across Kiama, the Shoalhaven and the Southern Highlands.
However, Shoalhaven Council held concerns road closures would negatively impact local business and residential properties, hence withdrawing their support.
After having no guests whatsoever for months, this would have given us hope.Sylvia Karschies, Bellevue Accommodation
Manager of Kiama's Bellevue Accommodation, Sylvia Karschies, said it was "devastating" as they were fully booked for the race weekend with some couples staying up to five nights.
"While one is cycling, the other roams the shops, they dine out, they wanted to make a holiday out of it," she said. "After having no guests whatsoever for months, this would have given us hope."
Retail businesswoman Andrea Diamond doesn't agree and welcomed the news. She said the region doesn't need L'Etape to "put them on the map" with tourists.
"We had very little communication and I personally found out from a local Facebook post that [the race] was coming," she said. "I'm sure it could have been arranged via different routes with less disruption to local businesses."
Race director Florent Malézieux said the decision by Shoalhaven Council was a surprise given their earlier written letter of support, and did not align with feedback Lateral Events had received during the consultation process.
"We were led to believe that the councillors and local businesses supported the race and had embraced the benefits of staging the event," Mr Malézieux said. "We respect the right of the Shoalhaven City Council councillors to make this decision. We will now consider our options and continue to create great experiences for riders in beautiful terrains."
In June, Lateral Events cancelled the shorter 80km ride component of the race because of the impact it would have had on local communities.
The organisers also submitted adjusted traffic management plans for the 136km race event to Shoalhaven council, which included moving Crooked River Road closures back half an hour to open at 9am and opening Kangaroo Valley Road back up at 10am instead of 12.30pm.
Kiama MP Gareth Ward was fuming and said the Shoalhaven were "scaring businesses and jobs out of our region".
"This event was due to be held in November when we need to be bringing people back to our region," he said in a statement.
"An opportunity to showcase our community on the world stage has been smashed by a bunch of councillors that have the wrong priorities and are totally out of touch with our community."
Destination NSW was also disappointed by the cancellation and hoped Lateral Events would move the race elsewhere in the state.
"The NSW government, through Destination NSW, has supported L'Étape Australia by Tour de France since 2016 and has seen significant benefit for the State's visitor economy and local communities involved over this period," a spokeswoman said.
"It is disappointing that South Coast businesses and residents will not have the opportunity to enjoy the social and economic benefits."
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