Wodonga Gold Cup public holiday holds on in a tight race

PHOTO FINISH: Cr Kat Bennett failed to get enough support to beat Cr John Watson's motion for an extension to the Wodonga Gold Cup holiday. Picture: MARK JESSER
PHOTO FINISH: Cr Kat Bennett failed to get enough support to beat Cr John Watson's motion for an extension to the Wodonga Gold Cup holiday. Picture: MARK JESSER

A public holiday will continue to be held on Wodonga Gold Cup day, after councillors voted in favour of keeping the holiday despite strong opposition from businesses and the general public.

The issue split councillors who voted 4-3 at Monday night’s meeting to keep the current holiday.

Cr John Watson lead the arguments in favour of Wodonga Gold Cup day for the next three years, saying the event had grown to about 8000 attendees.

“It’s not just about racing and alcohol, it’s about networking and a really a social day for our city,” he said.

“We don’t have many community events where people can come out and celebrate.”

He said the November holiday was good for tourism numbers and accommodation bookings, and was used by people in Wodonga for Christmas parties.

TOP TECHNOLOGY: Monday night's Wodonga Council meeting was held in a new room for the first time.

TOP TECHNOLOGY: Monday night's Wodonga Council meeting was held in a new room for the first time.

Cr Watson was supported by councillors Tim Quilty, Danny Lowe and Ron Mildren.

Cr Quilty acknowledged about two thirds of the public preferred a public holiday for the Melbourne Cup over the Gold Cup.

“The cup is clearly growing in popularity, developing as an event, and I worry that if we remove the public holiday we’re going to chop it off at the legs,” he said.

“I think it needs a little bit longer to get established and build momentum.”

Cr Kat Bennett argued against a Wodonga Gold Cup holiday after talking to businesses in the city and conducting a survey on her Facebook page, where the majority of the 1314 respondents preferred Melbourne Cup.

She said Wodonga businesses were not seeing their share of more than $1 million spent by residents in relation to the Gold Cup.

OPINIONS UNCHANGED: Mayor Anna Speedie voted against a public holiday for the Gold Cup, just like she did when the issue was last raised two years ago.

OPINIONS UNCHANGED: Mayor Anna Speedie voted against a public holiday for the Gold Cup, just like she did when the issue was last raised two years ago.

“The majority of these businesses actually said they were losing an amount of possible revenue due to the public holiday,” she said.

“Friday seems to be the most lucrative retail day, so therefore having a public holiday on a Friday further disadvantages them.”

The holiday was also confusing for businesses with offices in multiples regional centres and parents with children at school.

“I do question the validity of council supporting a public holiday for an event that does have a significant component related to alcohol,” Cr Bennett said.

Mayor Anna Speedie was the only councillor to vote against a Wodonga Gold Cup public holiday when it last went before the council two years ago and said new economic figures had not changed her mind.

The vote means Wodonga Gold Cup holiday will be held from 2019 to 2021.