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Thursday, 7 July 2011
Page: 8080


Mr HARTSUYKER (Cowper) (16:41): I would like to take the opportunity today to speak on two important matters. Firstly, I would like to highlight a recent outstanding achievement by a Coffs Coast resident and, secondly, I would like to note how the Coffs Coast and Clarence Valley will be hosting a world-class sporting event.

Last month, Crossmaglen resident Jason Bake and a colleague, Steve Widders, walked the Kokoda Track. Some members in this place would understand the challenges that Kokoda presents, but what makes Jason and Steve's effort all the more remarkable is that they are blind. The two vision-impaired Australians walked the track as part of the Blind Courage team. The history and significance of Kokoda is well documented. This 96-kilometre track is among the most difficult in the world and we can only stand in awe at what the diggers experienced during the Second World War.

For as long as he can remember, Jason Bake has dreamed of walking the Kokoda Track. He has had an interest in military history and always believed he would one day walk in the footsteps of the diggers who bravely fought and died for our freedom. Jason Bake is an inspiring person. Despite his disability, he has completed studies in agriculture and runs a successful dairy business at Crossmaglen, just outside of Coffs Harbour. His wife's name is Michele and together they are raising a young family of four children.

Jason had two aims when completing the trek. He wanted to highlight that having a vision impairment would not stop someone from achieving their goal and he also wanted to raise money for Guide Dogs Australia. On 12 June, Jason and Steve successfully arrived at the Kokoda Plateau having successfully completed the Kokoda Track. With the assistance and great support of their team, Jason and Steve completed the trek without injury, which is truly an outstanding achievement. Additionally, the Blind CourĀ­age team raised more than $25,000, which is a great outcome for Guide Dogs and should serve as an inspiration to us all.

The second issue I would like to bring to the attention of members is the world-class sporting event soon to be held in my electorate. The Coffs Coast and Clarence Valley will host a round of the World Rally Championship between 8 and 11 September this year. Securing this event in 2011 has been a coup for the Coffs Coast. After previous rounds were hosted in the NSW Northern Rivers, organisers decided to relocate to the Coffs Coast. The decision was a reflection of the proactive approach adopted by our local council, businesses and the broader community. Collectively, they identified the tremendous value that hosting such an event would bring to our region through tens of millions of tourism dollars and invaluable worldwide exposure.

Just on two months before the event commences, preparations are in full swing to ensure this event is a success. This is an event which the Coffs Coast would love to host year in, year out. I know everyone is focused on making the 2011 event a success. The impact of such an event was very evident when I attended a changeover dinner for the Sawtell Rotary Club last week. The members of Sawtell Rotary were explaining how they were looking forward to getting involved in the organisation of the rally. Of course Sawtell Rotary is just one of the community groups working to ensure that this round of the World Rally Championship is one which Rally Australia will never forget. Stages will be held across four local government areas in the region: Clarence Valley, Coffs Harbour, Bellingen and Nambucca. This will give visitors to the region a chance to see why our region is the envy of many others. I would like to extend an invitation to all members to come and see this world class event in September and enjoy some of the natural and cultural features of our area, our cuisine delights and all that the Coffs Coast has to offer.