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With hundreds of thousands of hectares on the eastern and southern seaboards of Australia affected by the catastrophic bush fires now raging in three states, some rally organisers will be having second thoughts about the planning and viability of their events in the short term. Heat wave conditions throughout Australia are likely to impact on the future of both traditional and new events, from Queensland in the north and around the coast, to South Australia. In circumstances rarely experienced before, events such as the Australian round of the World Rally Championship at Coffs Harbour, and the Alpine Rally in east Gippsland, have already fallen victim to the severe heat and rampant bushfires.
And with several summer months of heat and unsettled weather still to come, some event directors are believed to be hesitant to continue with their event planning.
Many may be unable to gain approval from forest officers for the use of what are now roads through barren landscapes. With so much of southern Australia in the grip of these catastrophic fires, authorities will be hesitant to approve events in fire-ravaged areas. With fires still burning in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, the likelihood of approval being given for the use of roads may be temporarily halted until reparation of the areas in question. If this were to be the case, authorities may be forced to withhold approval thanks to the sensitive nature of the areas in question.
Much clearing will take place in areas worst affected, work which will necessitate removing thousands of hectares of burnt timber, replacing bridges and culverts, grading forest roads and tracks and re-instating forest structures.
All of which will not only take time and money, but planning as well. In the meantime, event directors will have no alternative but to mark time until the situation is resolved. Competitors can do nothing but to wait until the danger is over and authorities re-asses the worst affected areas. It is a certainty that there will be many areas that will be out-of-bounds for rally activities, at least until cooler autumn and winter conditions arrive.
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