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6 November, 2021

Fight to keep triathlon running

THE popular Yungaburra triathlon is in jeopardy unless someone steps up to run the event, with Tablelands Regional Council pulling its financial support and looking for an organisation or professional event organiser to take it on.

By Robyn Holmes

Triathlon enthusiast Megan Hendry wants the Yungaburra event to be retained.

In August, council officers recommended that $30,000 be allocated annually for an event organiser to run the event, but that was voted down when Cr Kevin Cardew moved to withdraw all financial support.

Now council is asking for expressions of interest for an external organsiation to manage it but the proposal comes with no funding which may mean the triathlon will not go ahead next year. 

That possibility has “devastated” triathlon enthusiast and race ambassador since 2018, Megan Hendry, who has competed in every triathlon since it began in 2016. 

“I’m just shattered that council has decided not to continue to support the event,” she said. 

“I am very surprised at that decision because it was growing year on year and I think it would be an absolute shame if we lose this event entirely – both for the competitors and the local businesses who really benefit.”

Ms Hendry said she couldn’t understand the thinking behind council’s decision given the economic benefits were extensive for the region, with competitors often coming to the town the week before the event to train in the hilly conditions and then returning with supporters to do the race.

“We get a really big contingent from Cairns and we get competitors from places like Townsville, Darwin and Brisbane and they are all spending on accommodation, food and the like,” she said. 

More than 440 participants took part in the event this year, which was affected by the uncertainty of travel arrangements due to COVID, and nearly 600 in 2019.

Council received $15,000 in funding over three years from Tourism Events Queensland (TEQ) for the 2014, 2015 and 2017 events.

Council also received funding from TEQ in 2020 to develop a 5-year Plan which revealed that council’s level of investment would have to increase to grow the event. 

Ms Hendry said she was particularly attached to the Yungaburra triathlon as this was the first one she participated in and started her on a path that would take her to world championships and competing in Ironman events.

“A lot of competitors see the Yungaburra event as a good lead-up to the Cairns Ironman so it really would be a shame to lose that opportunity,” she said. 

“If this event dies, it will be devasting to young competitors – I’m training a young girl at the moment for this event and if it doesn’t go ahead, it will break her heart. I’ve everything crossed that someone will take it on.”

Tablelands Councillor David Clifton said council was offering a unique opportunity to take on the successful event with no acquisition costs, an established brand, existing resources and event assets. 

“With the help of the community we have built a great annual event and it is now time to hand it over to an organisation or professional event organiser who can ensure the event realises its full potential,” he said. 

“Council will continue to focus on other events and activities that build social connections, boost our economy and attract visitors to our region.”

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