Homeless, starving and disadvantaged children may be the big losers after the Victorian Police and Council of Port Phillip Bay rejected a permit to stage the annual Father Bob Toy Run in St Kilda, Melbourne.
However, Independent Riders Group spokesman Damien Codognotto has vowed the three-year event will go ahead this year.
“This is not over by a long shot. The Toy Run for Father Bob will go ahead on Sunday, December 11 (alternate date December 4), 2016,” he says.
Damien says the permit was rejected by council, citing “risk/safety breaches” in 2015.
This follows the recent council ban on motorcyclists parking on the footpaths.
Damien says the council wanted the IRG to hire a private company to do the road closures which would have been costly, disruptive and a “waste of money that could have gone to Father Bob”.
The Father Bob Foundation helps the homelessness, gives children a “fair start to life” and “feeding those who aren’t guaranteed a meal”.
“No definitions of safety breaches or any other problems associated with the event because there weren’t any,” he says.
Damien claims police walked out of a meeting to discuss the permit after just five minutes, VicRoads arrived late and they were never allowed to watch a video of the event or discuss what, if anything, went wrong.
The IRG has requested another meeting with St Kilda Police and the City of Port Phillip to look at and discuss the video footage of the 2015 Toy Run.
Damien says they are keen to define any problems and seek a way to save “an excellent fund-raiser for a worthy charity, a great tourist attraction and an opportunity to promote motorcycle and scooter safety”.
However, there appears to be some animosity between the IRG and police.
In an email from local Inspector Neralle Beer to Damien, she refers to a Facebook post by him regarding the toy run.
“I was extremely disappointed to see your inappropriate and offensive comment on your face book (sic) page “/St Kilda Police appear to be working hard to wreak (sic – should be “wreck”) the toy run for father Bob/”. Not only are the comments inaccurate, they are unfounded,” she writes.
“Given these comments and what appears to be a devise (sic – perhaps ‘divisive”?) and uncooperative agenda, I see no point in any meeting.”
The Inspector did not reply to requests for a comment, especially about an apparent personal problem between her and Damien.
Instead, we received the following meaningless reply from Leading Senior Constable Paul Turner of the VicPol Media Unit:
“Police are aware of a planned event in the Port Phillip area involving a large group of motorcyclists involved in a toy run. As with events of a similar nature police liaise with all stakeholders to ensure risks to the community and event participants are minimised. Police provide advice to the relevant authorities responsible for approving permits, though Victoria Police are not responsible for approving or rejecting event permit applications.”