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    Many Stawell and district businesses noted a 20 percent increase in sales across the Easter weekend.

Stawell Gift support nod to ‘healthy future’

Northern Grampians shire’s economic return and promotional opportunities far outweigh its council’s financial contribution to support the running of Australia’s richest footrace, councillors say. 

Northern Grampians Shire councillors, at their meeting last week, voted to proceed with a four-year sponsorship agreement, from 2023-24 to 2026-27, which will provide the annual Stawell Gift with a total $400,000 in cash support and a total package value of almost $800,000 including in-kind support. 

The council had already approved $100,000 for 2023-24 as part of its annual budget process. 

The council heard almost 12,000 people attended the 2022 event, across three days, which generated $3.76 million in unconstrained economic benefit to the region, and $1.77 million to Victoria. 

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Many Stawell and district businesses noted a 20 percent increase in sales across the Easter weekend and both the Grampians Tourism Plan and Stawell Tourism Strategy and Action Plan recognise it as a major drawcard for the region, with ‘huge opportunity’ to grow audiences beyond existing attendees. 

The Stawell Gift is also viewed by a live television audience of more than one million people across Australia. 

The 2024 instalment is scheduled for Saturday, March 30 to Monday, April 1 at Central Park, Stawell. 

Cr Eddy Ostarcevic said the Stawell Gift was an iconic event. 

“It also brings together movers and shakers in the industry, and in our shire as well, so we are able to provide a better place to live, work and invest – which is, after all, the motto of our shire,” he said. 

Cr Ostarcevic said the council considered its sponsorship agreement as a nod to a ‘healthy future’ for the Gift – which now included events and opportunities for men and women of all abilities. 

He said, importantly, the agreement also recognised a significant in-kind contribution. 

“There is blood, sweat and tears, so to speak, that goes into an event which starts, as I’m told, just after Christmas and continues through to Easter,” he said. 

“The fact we can see an annual contribution of something in the order of $3 million-plus per annum into the shire’s economy is something that, as a benefit-to-cost ratio, is in the positive.” 

Cr Kevin Erwin, in his final meeting as the 2022-23 mayor, said the sponsorship agreement was important for both the event and broader community. 

“Not only is it a great event, but it also allows time to promote this shire, both nationally and internationally – and I think it’s a very small investment to allow that to happen,” he said. 

Governing body Stawell Gift Event Management was established in 2020 to oversee the future direction of the event. It has since developed a strong governance framework, stabilised the event’s financial position including securing a naming right sponsor, and for the first time captured the social and economic benefits of the Gift. 

Stawell Athletic Club continues to run the event, which began in 1878.  Cr Karen Hyslop said the sponsorship agreement recognised the Gift and the organisers who maintained the ‘amazing’ event. 

“Moving this recommendation shows confidence in the Stawell Gift; that we have confidence in the Stawell Gift, we have confidence in its management and we have confidence in the way the Gift is run,” she said. 

“The amount of volunteers and work that goes into making the Stawell Gift what it is, is just absolutely amazing.” 

The council had provided $201,035 in funding and sponsorship plus in-kind support worth $146,000 across the past four years. 

Cr Murray Emerson, the Gift governing body’s chairman, declared a conflict of interest and left the room for the debate. 

The entire November 15, 2023 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!