Future of Burt Munro Challenge under threat

The future of one of Southland's biggest annual events, the Burt Munro Challenge, could be under threat because of the demands being placed on the small club that runs it, city councillors were told yesterday.

The six-year-old Burt Munro Challenge is run by the Southland Motorcycle Club, with its bosses yesterday addressing Invercargill city councillors who were hearing public submissions to its draft 2012-22 long-term plan.

Burt Munro Challenge Committee chairman Wayne Affleck said the event, which cost up to $350,000 to run, was growing every year.

"But the reality is we are a small club heavily dependent on volunteers and conscious of the financial risk the club puts itself in every time we run this event," he said.

Last year's event ran at a loss because the beach racing was canned due to poor weather conditions. The extreme conditions resulted in fewer riders competing and the loss of about 7000 paying spectators at the beach racing.

The club now had a $28,000 "buffer" in the bank, which was the only thing that gave it the confidence to continue, Mr Affleck said.

"We need to build that buffer up to about $60,000 so we have got the confidence to withstand the challenges of the weather and the challenges within the club, who are suggesting we are putting the club at risk."

The council originally gave the club $50,000 a year, but last year the council gave it a $20,000 grant and a $30,000 guarantee against loss.

"We need to go back to the original agreement (of $50,000 a year) to give the club the confidence to carry on," Mr Affleck said.

It was difficult for the members to organise the event on such a tight budget, and the enjoyment factor was diminishing, he said.

"That's not to say it won't continue ... (but) there about about six people that make this thing work. They are all getting quite frustrated and worn out. It's because of this continuous (financial) risk that's there, and constant monitoring of the event."

Southland Motorcycle Club president Craig Hyde said it needed to know it had a set amount of funding and a buffer to work with if the club was to go forward with confidence.

The financial support of the Invercargill Licensing Trust and city council over the years had kept the annual five-day event running, but support from Southland businesses, with the exception of E Hayes, which gave $5000 annually, had been limited to $200 from some businesses, they said.

The club bosses said the event ensured every motel in the city was booked out for the weekend and it was beneficial to local businesses, with the wives and partners of many motorcyclists spending money in the shops.

This year's event would have an alternative location set aside if bad weather resulted in the beach racing being canned, they said.

City councillors will consider the club's request for extra funding in its long-term plan.

The Southland Times