14 January 2021

Probing the polls: border restrictions and dragway dramas

| Genevieve Jacobs
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Do streetcars need a dragway venue in Canberra? Summernats 33. Photo: Peter Norton.

As the pandemic’s effects continue to rumble through the community, the ACT has taken a tougher stance in recent times. We’ve told Greater Sydney residents they’re not welcome and briefly quarantined anyone who’s been to Brisbane.

Police have been stopping vehicles on the Federal Highway and Sutton Road, and setting up frequent traffic stops on the Barton Highway and popular locations for interstate visitors like Questacon and even IKEA.

While the ACT has remained largely COVID-free for many months now apart from a very few cases in quarantine, the threat from Sydney is a real one. But as an entirely landlocked jurisdiction, is there more that we can do to keep ourselves safe by closing the net even tighter? Most of you thought not.

In our poll this week, we asked Should we shut down the ACT’s borders completely? A total of 904 readers voted.

Your choices were to vote Yes, this would cause minimal disruption compared to the risks. This received a total 304 votes, or 34 per cent of the total.

Alternatively, you could vote No, the Capital Region is essential to the functioning of the ACT, we need to manage the risk. This received 66 per cent of the total, or 600 votes.

This week we’re pondering the after-effects of what would normally have been the Summernats weekend. The annual car festival was cancelled because of COVID-19, but that didn’t stop cars from making the news.

Car clubs and enthusiasts worked hard with ACT police and Transport Canberra and City Services to create a safe and law-abiding ‘Claytons cruise’ which ran on Thursday, Friday and Saturday mornings. Car lovers registered their presence and used stickers to identify their vehicles and police made clear they were pleased with the level of co-operation.

However, there were still dramas.

On both Friday and Saturday night, ACT and NSW police were called out to multiple public disturbances in Braddon, Fyshwick and Eaglehawk. Patrons in Canberra’s busy restaurant precinct, motorists and local residents were disturbed by burnouts and other dangerous behaviour, and police were subject to abuse and projectiles.

READ ALSO Burnouts close Lonsdale St as police grapple with unregulated cruising, antisocial behaviour

There was intense discussion about those stories on RiotACT.

Some in the motoring fraternity suggested that Canberra’s lack of a drag racing venue was connected with the events; others argued there was no link between disruptive and illegal behaviour and the present lack of a sports facility.

Heather Rattenbury said: “They spend thousands on bike areas all around the city, if you just put some money towards a burnout track and car track a lot of this problem would be solved”, although Beverley Joyce thought this should be a private initiative.

“I keep seeing car enthusiasts asking the government to provide a facility for them to use for burnouts etc. Just a thought, but why not go the private purse way and all contribute to a fundraiser and try to find a car enthusiast sponsor and build your own track. Must be some alternative to taxpayer funds,” she said.

Lynn Wilson agreed. “Why should taxpayers pay for something that should be a private enterprise arrangement. You are a small part of society that want to burn out your tyres and blow a gearbox or two. You set it up, you build it, you insure it, you charge the fees to go! Simple.”

Terry Robert Rankin said: “Really? Do you really think opening a skidpad, opening a dragway or bringing back Summernats is going to stop these idiots? The answer is no. Put the money where it’s more needed.”

Our poll this week asks:

Would a dragway stop illegal behaviour in street cars?

View Results

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Kilgarah_says6:29 pm 18 Jan 21

We need one here & even though there will always be some or a few bad eggs – the majority will have a place to go and it will be safer for them and the many spectators. Our official Motor Sport scene is dead here so give them a place to do their burnouts & then hand out harsher penalties if they continue to do it on the streets. We are car buffs who do not participate in these burnout events – but do understand the need for somewhere for these cars & their drivers to let off their steam. There are a lot of car buffs in the ACT & it’s evident when the Summernats have their City Cruise each year with people of all ages coming out to cheer the cars on, with some watching cars they wish they owned themselves & who get a buzz from seeing cars who have had so much work put into them as well as money, so please don’t taint us all with the same brush. The Summernats brings in huge money for the ACT govt & local businesses every single year since day one so if we can have the light rail which a lot of Canberra did not want & which cost a huge fortune – surely we can have a burnout pad. There are a lot of activities where people know they shouldn’t do something & they still do it. An example is cyclists on the road with cycle paths at their disposal but they refuse to use them, Rock fishing without a life jacket etc. Stupid will always be stupid.

Master_Bates9:26 am 15 Jan 21

Supporting car enthusiasts is not a bad thing – The people we would be supporting are those who are members of existing communities.

I also agree though that it won’t stop illegal racing. Hooligans will be hooligans.

There is a saving grace – Those ‘Police’ monitoring cameras you see in places like the road out to Tharwa….. upgrade them so that they can record things like burnouts and automatically collect and crush cars via summons that are involved.

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