THIS year’s NAIDOC march will start at the Fitzroy plaza instead of Viaduct Park, as local police put a bigger focus on pedestrian safety.
For more than a decade, the march has kicked off at the park, with locals parading down Peel Street before turning in to Bicentennial Park at White Street.
This year, the march has been reduced to one block, starting at Fitzroy, heading down the main street before entering the park via White Street.
In May, the Tamworth Local Traffic Committee and councillors endorsed the traditional Peel Street route.
However, the RMS and local police, who are the final decision makers, rejected the plans. Blocking off Brisbane Street, a national highway, was a major sticking point.
Tamworth Sergeant Mick Buko said it took a lot of resources to block Brisbane Street, which would still not guarantee pedestrian safety.
“We are putting our safety hats on,” Sergeant Buko said.
“People will notice that in all events in town, there is a lot more focus on vehicle mitigation strategies.
“Other marches of this scale will be done along these lines in the future. We’re trying to limit blocking off major highways as much as possible.”
Sergeant Buko said it was also difficult to divert the heavy vehicles carrying wind turbines, which have permits to travel through Brisbane Street.
The RMS echoed the comments of Tamworth police.
“The proposed route had a number of difficulties associated with it, in particular pedestrian safety,” an RMS spokesperson said.
“An alternative was presented to the procession’s organising committee. This alternative route has been accepted by the NAIDOC Week procession organising committee and Tamworth Regional Council.”
Tamworth councillor Phil Betts sits on both the Local Traffic Committee and the Tamworth Aboriginal Community Consultative Committee.
He said council was “totally supportive” of the march, which is taking place on July 13.
“It’s not about the distance of the march, it’s about the significance,” Cr Betts said.
“We're supportive of the march, but the safety of those marching is paramount.”
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