Preparations for a second track in the iconic motor racing town of Bathurst is dividing the community.
The regional town hosts the annual Bathurst 1000 V8 Supercar race on Mount Panorama where the second circuit will be built.
Community groups are placing pressure on Bathurst Regional Council to consider the welfare of kangaroos and the environment before the track goes ahead.
A second track would increase the capacity to host events such as MotoGP, bringing tourism revenue into the local economy, which is largely agricultural.
The NSW Government has pledged $15 million to fund the second track alongside a commitment of $10 million from council but a further $25 million is required to proceed.
The council is aiming to build a 4.5km layout and business park on the western side of the legendary 6.2km course on Mt Panorama. A circuit has been designed, featuring multiple layouts that can all be run separate to the existing circuit which doubles as a public road.
Concerned resident Brian Wood said: “The whole kangaroo issue at Mt Panorama is a very emotive one, and really for Bathurst Regional Council, it’s a no win situation.”
“They cull all the kangaroos and the greenies become irate, if they don’t cull the kangaroos and one of them gets onto the track during the big race, then that brings damage to the Mt Panorama Race Circuit as one of the best in the world,” he said.
Bathurst Kangaroo Project spokeswoman Helen Bergen said: “We hope that council, the Bathurst Kangaroo Project and community organisations and locals will work together for the future of these animals.”
Councillor Warren Aubin said farmers were screaming out because of the kangaroo population.
"They cost them thousands and thousands of dollars in repairs and loss of crops every year. They’re a pest, they’re vermin and they’re in plague proportions,” Cr Aubin said.
“I’ve been looking at this for eight years, how we can totally reduce the population of kangaroos at the racetrack because something is going to happen…if it’s catastrophic enough, it could be death for a driver,” he said.
“I’m all for protecting Mt Panorama as our racetrack, it generates $85 million into our local economy.”
Ecologist Ray Mjadwesch said the plan required council to pull out an orchard which was proceeding without any consultancy, possibly against planning laws.
“The level of incompetence is something that I just can’t understand…it’s management by neglect. It’s sadly the way that a lot of development works here,” he said.
However Councillor Jess Jennings said council owned the land earmarked for the second track and the trees were no longer part of a viable orchard.
"I assume that clearing work (on the land) is proceeding which is what people are becoming aware of."
“At this stage, it’s been an internal decision, within council staff. There hasn’t been, to my knowledge, a public question or decision about clearing those trees because it hasn’t come before council as a specific development application," Cr Jennings said.
“But if there is some sort of environmental concern, the general public might have an interest in ensuring, asking or requesting that council do a DA process, that would include an environmental assessment and then that would then have to be considered by council.”
While the community is divided, Cr Jennings remains optimistic that co-existence can be achieved.
“There are a lot of people in Bathurst that are quite keen on seeing kangaroos co-exist on Mt Panorama. Also what they’ve done is made it very very clear that there is a world of people looking over our shoulder, with a keen interest in whether or not coexistence can occur, particularly from a whole range of environmental groups.”