If you are a car enthusiast and live in Queensland. There’s a good chance that you’ve heard about what has gone down following recent events between the car enthusiast community and the Queensland Police Service and Department of Transport and Main Roads.
If you haven’t read about it, or want to be filled in on the Open Letter from Downshift to the Queensland Premier, his response and the official response from the Department of Transport and Main Roads, be sure to head over and check it out here.
We had the chance to speak to the founder of the organisation at the centre of it all. That organisation is Downshift, and here’s how it went down:
DAF: Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us about the car enthusiast community and the apparent targeting of car enthusiasts in general.
Rory: No worries, it is definitely something we take very seriously as all of us involved with Downshift know just how slippery this slope is looking for the Queensland and even Australian car scene.
DAF: Now can you tell us a little bit of your background with Downshift and why it got started originally?
Rory: I am actually the founder Downshift, it started as something very simple way back in 2009. Basically I just started a Blogspot so I could write articles and post pictures I had taken on my new DSLR. Being literally obsessed with cars and making new friends at every event I went to, it grew and grew in terms of popularity and viewers.
I decided I should move it to a domain and from there is just kept climbing. Obviously after that came the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and now our YouTube channel.
You can find them all if you search; Downshiftaus. I guess the growth has just come from my heavy use of social media and the fact I make time for everyone and attend every event I can. Cars are in my blood and always will be, I am yet to meet someone who is as obsessed with cars as I am haha
DAF: As part of the Downshift community, why do you have meets? Wouldn’t you naturally assume that these types of meets would attract the attention from the authorities?
Rory: The meets actually came about when Matyas, the other half of Downshift jumped on board back in 2011. Before this he was running the monthly JDM Meets up here in Brisbane. They were started in 2007 in a small Aldi carpark, just like everything else they went from a small 15-20 car contingent to 500+ cars at a shopping centre carpark.
Obviously these numbers brought police and unwanted attention, which was causing Matyas a lot of stress. So we both came to the idea of moving the JDM Meets in to Downshift Meets and putting them during the day on weekends.
We thought moving them to day time and weekends would get rid of the idiots as well as the police, unfortunately as the site has grown so have the meets and now they are too big to keep under wraps.
It is just something we have to deal with and work out how to improve. We will continue to host the meets as without them, there really is not much left to do in the QLD car scene. We are here for the community so we will always strive to improve and create bigger meets.
DAF: Have you seen anything like what happened at the August Downshift meet on Sunday?
Rory: Once before, I think it was about 8months ago we had a large defect sting at another of our Rocklea meets. It was smaller than the one at the August meet, but still a large blow to our meets as that was the first time we had to deal with anything like that.
The backlash from the enthusiasts was the worst, with people putting the blame on us, even to the extent of saying we invited them. It was crazy! But we fought through it and never had to deal with them again. But it seems with bigger promotion of our events comes more police presence.
With Grunt Files and the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party in attendance for our August meet, the word was definitely out for the meet and the police decided to come in droves as well, bringing around 15-20 vehicles.
DAF: From some pictures, you could almost say that it looks like a scene from a Fast and the Furious movie. Is there any illegal racing going on at these events or do you facilitate them through things like track events?
Rory: It seriously was, it was almost an us vs them ordeal. We DEFINITELY do NOT have any illegal activity going on at all. We are actually very strongly against anything like that being undertaken at our meets, videoing and reporting anyone that does try to do something stupid.
We host track events to let people stretch their cars legs, and get it off the street.
DAF: What is your opinion on the attitude which the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and the Department of Transport and Mains Road (DOT) officers displayed when carrying out the operation?
Rory: Very poor, it actually blew us away with how they reacted to us. When they were approached a direct quote from them was “if a child wants candy, he goes to the candy store”.
We couldn’t believe their arrogance and complete lack of humility towards anyone. We completely understand that if our patrons are misbehaving and doing illegal activities when leaving then be all means the police should step in.
But they arrived long before anyone had begun leaving, plus no one had done anything illegal, and there was no reason for them to come and ruin everyones day for no reason. Especially because it was a task force that was sent to the event to intercept everyone leaving, not just the local branch. QPS and DOT had pre-arranged this to happen and for them to come and setup outside the meet.
In my books that is 100% not on!
DAF: Have you previously tried to work with QPS and DOT? If so, what was the outcome?
Rory: We have, and usually the outcomes have been quite pleasant. Up until this year really, our dealings with QPS have been nothing but enjoyable.
However as soon as DOT was involved it seems that they are specifically targeting us and car enthusiasts in general. I guess the argument always stands as shouldn’t money be used elsewhere instead of challenging events that are doing the same thing they are; trying to get cars off the road.
We will continue to try and work with QPS and DOT as it is better to be with them then against them, we want to show them that not ALL car enthusiasts are about endangering the public and doing stupid stuff in cars.
DAF: In your opinion, what is the best outcome for the community, and the authorities in maintaining safer roads and encouraging safe driving practices?
Rory: Obviously the best outcome would be us being left alone hahaha but we know that is highly unlikely. We just want to show to everyone, be that QPS, DOT, Media and anyone who is against the growth of the car scene, that only a very small minority tarnish what is actually a very well behaved and enjoyable community.
I think QPS and DOT coming to the table with us and helping us instead of being against us will make it easier on everyone and cause less distaste within the community.
In a perfect world, more funds into building more race tracks for us and giving us more events to go to would be the ultimate outcome. If they want us off the streets then give us somewhere to go? Instead of closing down more and more racetracks across Australia nationally.
So as you can see, it isn’t simply about modded cars and illegal happenings. There’s a desire to be accepted not only by law enforcement agencies, but also by the greater community.