Council to make decision on Ballarat public holiday on Wednesday

The battle over Ballarat’s November public holiday will hit the town hall this Wednesday when councillors pass their ruling for the next four years.

While Melbourne Cup day is the default public holiday for all of Victoria, regional local governments are able to nominate an alternative day.  The date needs to be put to the state government by August 8. 

The 2016 Ballarat Show

The 2016 Ballarat Show

In 2013 council officers recommended councillors vote in favour of keeping the public holiday on the opening Friday of the Ballarat Show following a survey where 65.6 per cent of more than 4200 respondents indicated their support for the status quo, compared to 22 per cent who were in favour of shifting the holiday to Melbourne Cup day. 

City of Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh said given there were four new councillors compared to the last vote she had “no idea” what the result of the vote would be.  She said she had not decided which way she would vote in the chamber. 

“There’s lots of people who love show day off as a community but there’s also very strong will from business for the Melbourne Cup,” Cr McIntosh said.  

Ballarat's Michelle and Stephen Payne after claiming the 2015 Melbourne Cup on Prince of Penzance.  Picture: Getty Images.

Ballarat's Michelle and Stephen Payne after claiming the 2015 Melbourne Cup on Prince of Penzance. Picture: Getty Images.

“As a business person I know how important it is and I understand how important it is to have assurance and consistency.” 

Commerce Ballarat has been a persistent advocate for changing the date to Melbourne Cup day, arguing that holding a public holiday on a separate day to the rest of the state leads to two days of low productivity for business in the region. 

Both Commerce Ballarat and the Ballarat Agricultural and Pastoral Society had a chance to put forward their cases to councillors in the past week. 

While a poll was not conducted by council ahead of the 2017 vote a survey conducted by The Courier in January received 930 responses, with 61 per cent opting to stay with the Ballarat Show. 

While Eureka Day on December 3 has also been flagged as a possibility in the past, it only managed to accumulate 12 per cent of the vote in council’s 2012/13 survey and is unlikely to be a genuine contender. 

City of Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh

City of Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh

Cr Mclntosh said as well as passing a resolution for the next four years she hoped in this term councillors would be able to agree on a more long term solution to the ongoing issue. 

“It’s very disruptive and costly for the business community to have this uncertainty so a longer term decision I feel would be a better one.”