After 30-plus years, why isn’t Summernats embraced as a Canberra institution?

Tim Gavel 11 January 2022 378
crowd cheering at car burnout

Summernats #34: a calendar fixture but not a beloved institution. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

I know it’s a generalisation, but many Canberra residents appear to have an uncomfortable relationship with anything to do with motorsport.

You don’t have to go back too far in the city’s history to corroborate this assertion.

There’s the failure to proceed with a dragway near the airport despite government funding being allocated to the project. Then there was the outcry over Canberra’s staging of the V8 Supercar event, the GMC 400.

GMC 400

The Canberra GMC 400 took place in the Parliamentary Triangle between 2000 and 2003. Photo: Epic Sports Photography.

It ended up existing in the city for three years, but there was continued community criticism over a plethora of issues, including noise, traffic disruption and cost. This is despite the event attracting many thousands of people to the city and generating much-needed tourist dollars during the winter months.

In the end, the public opposition was overwhelming and the contract to host the Canberra 400 came to an abrupt end.

READ ALSO: Summernats brings out the best and the worst as police target ‘antisocial’ behaviour

And then there is Summernats, arguably one of Canberra’s biggest events, along with the National Folk Festival and the National Multicultural Festival.


Summernats attracts about 20,000 visitors to the ACT each year. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

This year, over four days, Summernats attracted more than 20,000 people a day, with many attendees travelling to Canberra to attend. Many are car enthusiasts who treat their cars as they would a member of their family.

Summernats also provides a significant boost to the ACT economy while at the same time presenting a different perspective of the city. It helps to wipe away the staid and bland view of our city, which is a well-documented attitude held by many people who don’t live here.

Yet the event remains unloved by many in the ACT community.

READ MORE: Time for Summernats to change gears again, or go

The commentary before the event was filled with grumblings about noise, smoke and, in isolated instances, antisocial behaviour.

I regard myself as a moderate motorsport fan and I was critical of the decision to continue with burnouts during the bushfires a couple of years ago. But I find it hard to comprehend the open hostility from some in the Canberra community.

READ MORE: If we’re really a community, tolerate Summernats

Some have said that Summernats sends the wrong message given the city’s proactive measures towards renewable energy.

The same judgement, it would appear, doesn’t exist when considering the predominance of and reliance on motor vehicles in Canberra by residents, nor the high usage of air travel.

Is it time to consider the joy Summernats gives motorsport enthusiasts and its economic benefits to specific sectors within the community?

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378 Responses to After 30-plus years, why isn’t Summernats embraced as a Canberra institution?
Garry Booth Garry Booth 5:13 pm 14 Jan 22

The Greens...that's why.

Eleanor Evans Eleanor Evans 3:22 pm 14 Jan 22

I would guess most Canberrans just don’t really care either way about it. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I barely notice it’s happening (even when I lived close to it).

Josh Hogan Josh Hogan 12:40 pm 14 Jan 22

Because it belongs in Alice Springs…

Tariq Khan Tariq Khan 12:07 pm 14 Jan 22

Been in this city for over 32 years. Never been and probably never will. It’s a choice. Why complain?

Peter Dark Peter Dark 9:01 am 14 Jan 22

That picture gives you your answer!

Greg Quilliam Greg Quilliam 8:21 am 14 Jan 22

Move it to Wakefield Park. It would reduce the noise for "Ken Behrens" while also helping the communities of both Goulburn and Canberra!

artismal artismal 8:15 am 14 Jan 22

During my many years in Canberra my car has been broken into once, and I’ve had the fuel cap removed with the fuel drained once. Both happened during Summernats. Need I say more?

Paul Conn Paul Conn 7:56 am 14 Jan 22

Now that the drunken behaviour of past years has been largely eliminated, it is now just a silly few days that includes destroying tyres doing donuts and creating lots of smoke and calling that entertainment, so it is probably pretty harmless.

Chris Harrison Chris Harrison 11:57 pm 13 Jan 22

At that time of the year canberra is basically dead because so many locals leave around the xmas/new year period, im sure all the restaurants/accommodation venues, taxi drivers ect appreciate the extra revenue from the event, few days and it’s all over again

Damien Chubb Lowe Damien Chubb Lowe 11:20 pm 13 Jan 22

Summernats is not everyone’s cup of tea. It does disrupt the city for a week. But so be it. The income. The jobs. The tourism it brings to the act is invaluable.

Jenny Wood Jenny Wood 10:47 pm 13 Jan 22

I went in 1987 it was awesome!

Michelle Porobic Michelle Porobic 9:55 pm 13 Jan 22

Funny how no one complains about the 30 million that Summernats brings into Canberra ……

Pete Randle Pete Randle 9:45 pm 13 Jan 22

God help us if this is a high point to exhibit what Canberra has to offer.

A closed program within the confines of EPIC where most $$$ were spent at McDonald's. I appreciate the die hard enthusiasts who display some magnificent vehicles but they are over shadowed by boofheads, Neanderthals and others who take advantage of what could be a great event. ACT Police needs to start looking at what is already on our streets, put their big boy pants on and fine those who can't keep there vehicles roadworthy and within the confines of the law.

Daniel Trevarthen Daniel Trevarthen 9:04 pm 13 Jan 22

I love it…

Dean Cameron Dean Cameron 8:59 pm 13 Jan 22

Greens on bikes got it to a point where ACT only allows motorsport that brings in big money anythig else gets axed eventually. Speedway, Drags, Molonglo ski area. Can you ski on east Burley Basin nope, Will there ever be a dedicated motorsport complex...nope. Your only left with Kart racing or occassional speedway just down the road.

John Evans John Evans 8:30 pm 13 Jan 22

I find it quite fascinating that an ACT gfovernent that prides itself in its efforts to make the ACT green - is happy to host an event that generates catastrophic volumes of CO2 and other pollution. Talk about rank hypocrisy.....

    Rob Chalmers Rob Chalmers 10:57 am 14 Jan 22

    John Evans Catastrophic..... exaggeration much ? Ban fireworks as well on that logic.

    John Evans John Evans 1:41 pm 14 Jan 22

    Rob Chalmers Excellent idea. But why is it an exaggeration?

    Garry James Garry James 1:44 pm 14 Jan 22

    Rob Chalmers probably need to close the airport as well...

    Rob Chalmers Rob Chalmers 1:45 pm 14 Jan 22

    John Evans As the amount of co2 emitted would be a small percentage of Canberra's daily commute. Why not stop people going to the coast ?? There would be 20 times the co2 created there.

    John Evans John Evans 6:14 pm 14 Jan 22

    Garry James The airport provides travel - the Summernats provides stupidity.

    John Evans John Evans 6:14 pm 14 Jan 22

    Rob Chalmers At-least those outputs provide real value.

Julz Lo Julz Lo 7:54 pm 13 Jan 22

It’s 3 Days… 3 Days

Louise Henskens Louise Henskens 7:51 pm 13 Jan 22

I love it

Maree Randolph Maree Randolph 5:22 pm 13 Jan 22

I loved SummerNats..... it put Canberra on the map!

Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 3:31 pm 13 Jan 22

Summernats began in the 1990s so it is quite recent. It is located next to and downwind of a suburb built in the 1960s. My family moved there in the 1980s. Many residents have been there since the sixties, when the Showgrounds was just that, amd not a problem for residents. So saying it’s been around for a long time is a nonsense response. The idiocy of holding the event during the black summer was unbelievable. As for Canberrans ‘liking the money’ that’s rubbish. Many leave Canberra to avoid Summernats so they are not spending money here and it costs ACT ratepayers heaps in extra policing . Only a limited number of businesses including the brothels at Mitchell make a lot of money from it. It costs most of us.

    Maree Randolph Maree Randolph 5:26 pm 13 Jan 22

    Julie Patricia Smith check your facts..... Summer Nats were around prior to the nineties..... 😏🤔😖

    Julie Patricia Smith Julie Patricia Smith 6:39 pm 13 Jan 22

    Maree Randolph give me the date. I have lived it.

    Dizzy Nezzy Dizzy Nezzy 7:01 pm 13 Jan 22

    Julie Patricia Smith Rubbish. It began on the 1980’s I’m pretty sure. I grew up in Watson and stopped coming home for Christmas-it used to start on Boxing Day or that week-it was so awful. It’s changed a lot, become much more diverse but the screeching around here starts well before the event. and the pollution is unacceptable

    Pete Bishop Pete Bishop 7:25 pm 13 Jan 22

    Anthony Meere well played

    Maree Randolph Maree Randolph 7:58 pm 13 Jan 22

    Julie Patricia Smith can't remember exactly when but I moved from Canberra in 1989 and attended a few supernats prior to that.!

    Maree Randolph Maree Randolph 8:01 pm 13 Jan 22

    Julie Patricia Smith you should go, you might enjoy it 😊

    Simon Bateman Simon Bateman 8:35 pm 13 Jan 22

    Julie Patricia Smith started in 87 I think. Still got all my tshirts from the first 7 years

    Anthony Meere Anthony Meere 8:50 pm 13 Jan 22

    Julie Patricia Smith 1987 to be precise. Clearly you have not lived it. Maybe go back to Perth.

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