Rally Australia has moved south from its Northern Rivers base to the city of Coffs Harbour for next season, after environmental protests hit last year's event.
The announcement of the move came this morning and, while the official communication makes no mention of the small but significant environmental disturbances during the 2009 Rally Australia, sources have indicated returning to such a sensitive area would not have gone down well with the sport's promoter and governing body.
The president of the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport, Andrew Papadopoulos, said the new location would allow for a more compact event, bringing competitors and manufacturers in the WRC some of the most exciting and spectacular rally stages Australia could offer, based in one of Australia's most famous coastal regions.
"We are disappointed to be leaving the Northern Rivers area," he said. "We had very strong support there from the councils of Tweed and Kyogle, the local businesses and the majority of residents and I thank all those people for their support.
"However, during this year we have in conjunction with our sporting officials and independent consultants and with considerable feedback from the FIA, North One Sport [the commercial rights holder for the World Rally Championship] and various teams and manufacturers, come to the conclusion that despite the overwhelming support we received, it is simply not feasible or practical to locate the event there in the future."
The FIA has endorsed the change of venue, which means next September's event will be the third Rally Australia in succession to run on new stages. There is no Rally Australia this year, as it is run in alternate years.
The event was held in Perth, Western Australia for 19 years, until 2006 when the WA government withdrew funding for the event. It then shifted across the continent to the New South Wales/Queensland border for 2009 – prompting local residents to stage major protests against the running of a motorsports event in what they perceived to be a sensitive environment (RIGHT). It will now be located 350 miles north of Sydney in Coffs Harbour.
In welcoming the rally, the Mayor of Coffs Harbour City Council, councilor Keith Rhoades said: "This is an absolutely fantastic opportunity for the Coffs Harbour region. The World Rally Championship is broadcast in 186 countries and has a global audience of 53 million viewers.
"From an economic perspective, we would see around $15m [$14.5m U.S.] directly injected into the local economy through this one event alone. Coffs Harbour has successfully staged legs of the Australian Championships in the past and I'm confident we will provide a great venue for the World Rally Championships in 2011."
Planning for the rally will commence immediately, with extensive community consultation with all affected parties in particular the local councils in relation to the choice of the exact route and location of event infrastructure.
Rhoades continued: "There are many options available because we have been used to hosting rallies now for many decades. But securing a major world-class event of this magnitude and significance is something for us all to be extremely pleased about."
The Coffs Harbour area is no stranger to rallies, with the International Southern Cross Rally running in the area in the 1960s and 1970s. A round of the Australian Rally Championship also runs in this area.