STAWELL - A challenge has been thrown out to citizens and business operators in Stawell to take ownership of the iconic Stawell Gift.
Northern Grampians Shire Council has voted in favour of not increasing its contribution to the Stawell Athletic Club for the running of the Australia Post Stawell Gift.
Council was considering increasing its financial contribution for this year's event from $25,000 to $30,000, but council opted to maintain the level of support at $25,00.
Instead, Cr Murray Emerson threw out a challenge for the public to finally take ownership of the event.
"I think we should leave the contribution the same and not increase it," Cr Emerson said.
"We have all heard that there could be some major changeovers to the Stawell Gift at the end of this year, because Australia Post has suggested it may not continue with sponsorship for the event. Obviously I do hope they reconsider.
"However, in the event that this happens, I think it is time the citizens of Stawell and the Northern Grampians Shire take possession of this race. They need to be able to have some control over this race and they should do so.
"It's time the public put thought into that and work hard to keep the event strong and make certain it stays right here in Stawell."
Council had looked hard at the option of increasing its contribution to $30,000 this year, which would have seen the funding double since 2009.
Debbie Bach, Acting Director Marketing and Community, said council has a long history of support by way of both cash and in-kind to the operation, preparation, marketing, promotion and sponsorship for the Stawell Gift each year.
Mrs Bach said the Stawell Athletic Club and its promoters had been able to pull off a major coup this year, attracting 100 metre record holder Asafa Powell to compete in the 2013 Stawell Gift. This will guarantee increased interest in the event, according to Mrs Bach.
"In return, the Stawell Gift brings a substantial economic benefit to the shire," Mrs Bach said.
"A Remplan analysis shows that if approximately 20,000 people visit the shire as a result of the Stawell Gift, then this equates to an increase of $5.7 million to the Northern Grampians Shire economy and represents 46 additional jobs."
Mrs Bach said the funding provided to the Stawell Athletic Club is intended as a cash contribution towards the promotion of the event and to support the overall running of the Gift.
This is provided in addition to the in-kind support, including preparation and maintenance of the oval and its surrounds.
"Council invests $120,000 per year by way of ground preparation and maintenance at Central Park. Of this, $35,000 is specifically for ground preparation alone and other costs include waste removal, recycling and cleaning of amenities during the event," Mrs Bach said.
Cr Kevin Erwin said he was annoyed with the statistics collected on crowds at the Stawell Gift, which reflected minimal support from people across Stawell and district.
"The Stawell Gift has 132 years of history in Stawell and it would be a pity to ever see it disappear," he said.
"However, it is annoying when you see that the people of Stawell haven't supported the Gift over the years. Figures clearly show that is the case.
"I hope these are things that we all take on board and that we continue to see a strong and vibrant Gift.”