Newcastle's East End residents, businesses and motor racing fans are still in the dark about whether the city will host another Supercars weekend in March after a confusing week of horse-trading between the council and state government.
City of Newcastle's administration dug in its heels last Tuesday when the government said it had committed taxpayers' money for a one-year race extension.
The council said it had conducted public consultation based on a new five-year deal and the government would have to pay for its own community survey if it wanted to switch to a one-year contract.
It is fairly safe to assume the 59 per cent of almost 11,000 Newcastle online survey respondents who opposed a five-year deal also would be against a one-year deal, so it is unclear why another round of consultation is necessary.
Newcastle Labor MP Tim Crakanthorp, who disagrees with his government's stance on the race, clearly thinks the people have spoken.
He said publicly last week that he did not support the race returning for one or five years.
Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes, a strong supporter of the race in previous years, said she regarded the Newcastle 500 as "very successful" for the city and pointedly said the Premier, Chris Minns, was "very supportive of having Supercars in Newcastle".
But Cr Nelmes said was not willing to contemplate approving a one-year race extension unless the government completed another round of consultation on that basis.
Supercars typically announces the following year's race schedule at the Bathurst 1000 in early October. This year's Bathurst round starts on Thursday.
But last year it did not lock in its schedule until late November, so it would appear as though the council, government and Supercars have more time up their sleeves to resolve the matter.
Just how that will happen is anyone's guess.
Judging by the comments of Jobs and Tourism Minister John Graham, discussions are continuing between the three parties.
Party sources say Labor councillors do not want the Supercars issue to be "live" in the lead-up to next September's local government elections.
A one-year contract extension would mean a rinse-and-repeat debate next year about whether to bring the race back.
What happens if Mr Graham finds $40 million down the back of the couch this week to fund another four years of the race until 2028?
It remains to be seen whether Labor councillors would support a five-year deal in the face of substantial community opposition.
Conveniently, they have been spared having to make such a decision for the moment.
This leaves residents, beach users, businesses and their customers merely guessing at what February and March will look like next year in the weeks leading up to and following the race weekend.
Will businesses be open for weddings and functions? Will residents and shop owners have to negotiate concrete barriers? Can hotels take Supercars bookings? Can Supercars fans make plans to watch the race?
Destination NSW says an assessment report on this year's Newcastle 500 won't be complete until the end of the year at the earliest, but the government apparently has decided it does not need to know the results of this review before claiming the event is a winner for NSW.
Indeed, Mr Graham acknowledged last week that the majority of people in Newcastle might not want the race, but their views were secondary to the needs of the broader region and state.
That is a hard pill to swallow for the people most affected by the event.
The past week has had the hallmarks of a political pantomime in which the motivations of the characters, some of them seemingly still off-stage, remain unclear.
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