The decision to appoint miner South32 as the naming rights sponsor of September’s Ride Wollongong festival has shocked the climate-conscious cycling community.
“The event’s a great idea. But I don’t want to go to it now, unless it’s part of an action to oppose the sponsorship,” says local cycling advocate Jess Whittaker.
“We’re in a climate emergency. I can’t look my kids in the eye and say, ‘We’re going to this cycling event – it’s paid for by a coal mine. And by the way, they’re burning your future and stuffing the water catchment.”
Ms Whittaker, a Port Kembla health care worker who ran as the Greens lead candidate in Ward 3 at the last Wollongong City Council election in December 2021, said: “You don’t have to have hundreds of thousands of dollars to put on a community event. The council should just be funding that.”
Despite being a keen cyclist, Ms Whittaker won’t be attending this month’s South32 Ride Wollongong festival.
“I just can’t do it. It was the same feeling I got at UCI when they were handing out all those yellow hats with South32 logos and I just felt so embarrassed. All these people come over from Europe and we’re in a climate emergency and here’s good old Wollongong handing out the hats for the coal mine.
“I actually took a hat home and embroidered ‘end coal’ on it and then wore it back the next day.”