Chief Minister Andrew Barr has revealed there has been discussions about the possibility of a large-scale motorsports facility outside the ACT's borders as he appeared to give the green light to Summernats.
As major events start to return to Exhibition Park, the ACT government is considering the future of COVID-19 testing at the site but it's unclear if the drive-through testing site will still be operating when Summernats is held early next year.
Mr Barr all but confirmed Summernats would go ahead next year and the event would be similar to how it had been held in previous years, albeit with various COVID-safe measures in place.
"There has been a number of discussions in various forms during the pandemic in relation to what the likely public health directions will be at the time of the event," he told a budget estimates hearing.
"Looking now at the vaccination rates and the travel freedoms that are going to be in place ahead of next year's event that they'll need to submit a COVID-safe plan.
"It would be run at Exhibition Park, reasonably close to how it has run in the past but with a range of agreed COVID-safe protocols."
There is also the matter of the drive-through COVID-19 testing site at Exhibition Park, event organisers have previously expressed concern at the ability to host events while the testing centre is there.
An ACT government spokeswoman did not say whether a testing site would continue to operate during the Summernats car festival but she said the government would explore options for testing capability in the weeks and months ahead.
"It was never envisioned that EPIC would be a permanent testing site option, and EPIC will be required to host major events in 2022," the spokeswoman said.
"The need for mass testing facilities as part of our ongoing public health response will evolve, particularly as the use of rapid antigen testing increases."
It has been a testing site since March 2020 and is the most popular site in the ACT for people to get a COVID-19 test.
The organisers of Summernats have already signalled their intention to host the event next year, which is normally held over four days in early January.
The event was cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. It was originally slated to move to Sydney but the March event was cancelled by organisers due to COVID outbreaks and uncertainty around borders.
A commissioned economic impact study revealed that Summernats would bring in an estimated $30 million into the ACT in early 2022, with the majority of money from interstate.
The organisers say the festival normally attracts about 100,000 people.
When asked whether the ACT government would consider building a large scale purpose-built motorsports facility to host events such as Summernats, Mr Barr said this would not be built in the territory.
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However, he said there had been some discussions about whether such a facility could be built over the border in NSW
"There's not an identified site for such a wide ranging motorsports facility," he said.
"I believe there are some discussions with the NSW government on the NSW side of the border that is reasonably proximate to the ACT but I don't believe there is an available block of land that would be suitable ... to be located physically inside the territory."
Mr Barr said discussions about a large-scale motorsports facility in nearby NSW had not been detailed, but he indicated former deputy premier John Barilaro was interested in the possibility of a facility in the Monaro NSW state electorate.
However, the Chief Minister downplayed any concerns about whether the ACT would lose any economic benefit should a facility be built outside of the territory.
"I don't believe we will, Canberra would still be the major economy, the major accommodation hub and there's no suggestion that Summernats, for example, would be moving away from Exhibition Park," Mr Barr said.
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