Cashed up S80 cool about cuts

By Fraser Walker-Pearce

SOUTHERN 80 organisers are confident the event will be back in the black soon, despite a diminishing funding supply.

On the back of Campaspe Shire councillors electing late last year to reduce the 80’s funding stream from $25,000 a year to $15,000 by 2021, the event is looking elsewhere for financial backing.

But in the meantime Moama Water Sports Club president Stephen Shipp said the cashed-up club had a ‘‘pretty big bank balance, or cushion’’ to protect it until more sponsors come on board.

With just a few weeks until the 50th edition of the biggest ski race in the world gets under way on February 8, Mr Shipp said he was confident it would go off without a hitch.

‘‘I don’t see it (the cuts in funding) impacting us too much, it’s only going to drop by $5000 a year,’’ Shipp said.

‘‘As well as that we’re trying to get some funding from Visit Victoria. We’re reasonably confident we’ll be making money soon, but we need the State Government to support us, because costs keep rising.

‘‘I think we’ll be back in the black in the next couple of years, we haven’t been for the past few but we do need that funding from the state to make it happen.

‘‘We’re digging up some more local sponsors I believe, I don’t know where they are at the moment but that’s an avenue we’re looking at,’’ he said.

Shipp said the Southern 80 was a huge financial contributor to Echuca-Moama, with between $55 and $60 million injected into the local economy in the past three years.

‘‘But it doesn’t just stop there, there’s actually a good number of people who come here for the race and really like it here — they’re the ones who buy a holiday house and our population actually grows when they decide to put their roots down here,’’ he said.

But a council report, tabled at the meeting where funding was cut, stated there was no reliable method of capturing the exact number of Southern-80-goers, although it was estimated at 50,000 attendees in previous years with numbers dropping to 40,000 in the past two years.

Shipp said he had not noticed a drop in attendance, and noted entries for all 42 classes were stable this year.

‘‘They’re similar to last year and could even be up a bit.

‘‘It’s pretty much similar in terms of the classes this year, the only difference is the junior classes will have a two-year gap instead of three, so we don’t really know what that will do to entries, whether it’ll push them up or down,’’ he said.

The weekend begins with the inaugural hall of fame inductions, with around six of the 33 nominees expected to be inducted.

‘‘It’s a good thing to showcase those who have been around the sport for a long time.

‘‘We will be cranking up the finish line again this year as well, we’ll be discussing very soon where everything is laid out around the finish, with the focus being placed on the spectator and getting families down there.

‘‘It’s really transformed from being a party place to a real family place now, which is great,’’ Shipp said.