Rally organisers disappointed

The start of the 64th Brighton Veteran Car Rally in the Octagon. PHOTO: ODT FILES

For the first time in the Dunedin to Brighton Veteran Car Rally’s 66-year history, organisers have been left with a “sour taste” after they were unable to secure the Dunedin mayor or deputy mayor to open their annual event.

Invitations were sent late last year, but Mayor Aaron Hawkins declined to attend because he wanted to take annual leave at this time, and deputy mayor Christine Garey declined because she had “a conflicting appointment” this weekend.

However, when The Star contacted the Dunedin City Council to find out why neither would attend, a council spokesman said Cr Garey had managed to rearrange her appointment yesterday so she could be available for Saturday’s rally.

But her “last minute” offer was rejected by the event’s organisers.

Rally committee member Mark Wilkinson said it was simply too late.

“We’ve already got arrangements in place.

“At the last minute, she’s approached us to say she can now do it.

“That’s fine, but we had to put something in place before Christmas, which we did, because that’s when they declined the original invitation.

“Unfortunately, while the offer has been forthcoming, it’s just too late.”

When the duo declined the invitation, counsellor Lee Vandervis offered to fill the void, he said.

“It’s not fair to tell Cr Vandervis at the last minute that he is no longer required.”

Mr Wilkinson said being on leave had never stopped the other mayors from attending the event, and to have the deputy mayor respond to the invitation when it was too late was very upsetting.

“We feel let down by the city.

“I think the point needs to be made that this event is a mayoral duty, not a personal duty.”

Neither Mr Hawkins or Cr Garey could be contacted for comment this week.

The rally is a showcase for veteran vehicles built before January 1, 1919, and since its establishment all participating vehicles have been waved off by the sitting mayor or deputy.

Mr Wilkinson said it was the first time in the 66 years of the event that neither one of them would be there in an official capacity.

“It’s pretty upsetting. I don’t know if Aaron Hawkins and Christine Garey know this, but this event was started by a Dunedin mayor.”

The event was the brainchild of the late Sir Leonard Wright, who was Dunedin mayor from 1950-59.

He established it after travelling to England and seeing the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run and the movie Genevieve

“And the cup that we present for the overall winner at the end of the rally is the Dunedin City Council Festival Cup.”

Mr Wilkinson said the vehicles were “working pieces of history”.

“At the end of the day, we’ve preserved the history and you’re never going to see that history again.”