Athletics community reaffirm Regional Athletics Centre placement at Sports Precinct Coffs Coast Sport News Of The Area by News Of The Area - Modern Media - June 9, 2021 The local athletics community has reaffirmed its stance that Bruce Barnier Oval is the best place for the new Regional Athletics Centre. Photo: Emma Darbin. COFFS Harbour athletics community representative Nicola Johnstone has criticised well-known former NRL referee Bill Harrigan’s recent calls not to place Coffs Harbour’s future Regional Athletics Centre (RAC) within the Coffs Coast Sport and Leisure Park. Mr Harrigan stated on Prime News recently that he didn’t want the proposed Regional Athletics Centre positioned at Bruce Barnier Oval, within the Coffs Harbour Sports Precinct, as he believes it will interfere with the holding of State Oztag and touch football tournaments there. Coffs Harbour City Councillors have debated on two separate occasions whether to place the future Regional Athletics Centre at Bruce Barnier Oval or York Street Oval, Coffs Harbour. Council staff have twice recommended the placement of the centre at York Street Oval, and councillors have been unable to make a decision on the issue on both occasions. Ms Johnstone stated that representations were made to Mr Harrigan in December 2020 and again in late April 2021 that the RAC’s placement at Bruce Barnier Oval would not impact on the Oztag tournaments he hosts in Coffs Harbour. “Athletes pointed out on both occasions there are over 40 fields available to Oztag in the sports precinct with the RAC in place,” Ms Johnstone said. “In fact, the RAC’s construction at Bruce Barnier Oval will see the fields elevated by a fill pad to reduce any impact from flooding in wet weather events, therefore providing Oztag with six flood free fields during competition, which is more than they have access to now.” Ms Johnstone questioned why Mr Harrigan, who hires the fields for ten days a year for Oztag championships, “has a say in Coffs Harbour town planning matters and why the consensus views of the local community are being ignored”. “The athletics community is unanimous in its preference for the RAC to be placed at Bruce Barnier Oval,” Ms Johnstone said. A Regional Athletics Workshop was held by Council on 27 April with fifteen key stakeholders, with nine strongly advocating for the Regional Athletics Centre to be placed at Bruce Barnier Oval, three willing to place it at either Bruce Barnier Oval or York Street Oval, and two stakeholders willing to work with athletes regarding the centre’s placement. “Only Oztag was strongly opposed to the RAC being established at Bruce Barnier Oval,” Ms Johnstone stated. Ms Johnstone said the benefits of the RAC to other sports if placed at Bruce Barnier Oval are numerous and include a state of the art training and sport testing facility for all sporting codes. “Placed at Bruce Barnier Oval, with all its existing infrastructure such as adequate car parks, bus bays, footpaths, cafe, administration building etc, the RAC can attract State and National competitions and host a state of origin track and field series,” she stated. “These athletic competitions will bring in substantial economic benefits to the region, with many championships attracting over 1000 competitors over a three-five day period. “It can provide a base for international track and field teams to train in the ideal climate prior to the Brisbane Olympics in 2032 (if the bid is successful).” By Emma DARBIN Former NRL referee Bill Harrigan’s calls not to place Coffs Harbour’s future Regional Athletics Centre at Bruce Barnier Oval have been criticised by the local athletics community. Photo: Facebook.