Move to change Launceston Show day public holiday stirs debate

CROWD PLEASER: Circular Head Mayor Daryl Quilliam JP says he supports a notice of motion to change Launceston's show day public holiday to the Friday of Agfest - a move his own council made more than a decade ago.
CROWD PLEASER: Circular Head Mayor Daryl Quilliam JP says he supports a notice of motion to change Launceston's show day public holiday to the Friday of Agfest - a move his own council made more than a decade ago.

Why have a show day if there is no show?

This is the sentiment of Circular Head Mayor Daryl Quilliam JP, who more than a decade ago lead an unprecedented move to change the Burnie Show day public holiday to the Friday of Agfest. 

On Tuesday, Meander Valley councilor Bob Richardson will put forward a similar notice of motion calling for Launceston’s show day public holiday to also be changed. 

Cr Richardson argues that Agfest has clearly become the state’s premier agricultural event and moving the public holiday would recognise the shift in community values. 

From the experience of Circular Head Council, Cr  Quilliam said public holidays need to serve a purpose and the shift to Agfest was one of the best things they had ever done.

“I cannot tell a community what to do, but for us changing our public holiday has worked out very well,” he said.

“We would never want to go back to how it was and it’s pretty clear that agricultural shows are struggling at the moment.

“A public holiday needs to serve the right purpose and I think an event like Agfest offers a lot more to children, particularly in terms of education.”

The Agfest organising committee have said they do not support Cr Richardson’s motion, arguing there is space for both regional shows and field days to coexist, despite declining support for agricultural shows.

“We believe that Agfest offers a distinctly different product to an agricultural show and that local agricultural shows are important institutions for the community,” the committee said.

“We recognise that a public holiday for Agfest may make it easier for some patrons to attend our event, this is a complex issue which requires input from all relevant stakeholders.”

The committee explained Agfest also operates under different terms and conditions, ruling out many activities common to agricultural shows, such as rides, show bags, games of chance and raffles.

Changing the show day pubic holiday would require an amendment to the Statuary Holidays Act.

Cr Quilliam said the only challenge faced by the Circular Head Council was convincing the government the holiday change was a viable option. 

“It wasn’t difficult, but that was around 10 years ago,” he said.