KPMG cancels annual Couta Boat Classic amid bushfires

06 January 2020 3 min. read
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KPMG has cancelled this year’s edition of the Couta Boat Classic event, in tribute to those affected by the bushfires currently raging across Australia. The Big Four accounting and advisory firm instead held a more mellow lunch gathering with some of its team members and clients.

Couta Boat Classic is known to be one of the most prominent corporate events of the year. The boat race is a gathering of Australia’s top business leaders, and acts as a forum for networking and to discuss trends, development and challenges facing the economy.

This year, the traditional setting of food, drink and boat racing was replaced by a more humble scenery, with KPMG deciding to tone down its festivities at such a solemn time.

“Out of respect for bushfire-affected communities – and given the current catastrophic bushfire situation across eastern Australia – with the expectation of worsening weather conditions tomorrow and over the weekend, KPMG has taken the decision to cancel its annual Couta Boat race,” said a KPMG spokeswoman.

KPMG cancels annual Couta Boat Classic amid bushfiresVast regions in Australia are currently facing rampant bushfires, which have so far claimed 17 lives and destroyed well over 500 homes across the country. The fires have caused unprecedented environmental damage, and stories have emerged of the wildlife being trapped in the flames as well.

Research and consulting firm SGS Economics recently tried to put a number to the severe economic damage that the fires are causing, estimating that they cost Australia as much as $50 million per day. This includes indirect factors such as disruption to transport and communication. 

The decision to cancel the race was reportedly made collaboratively by two senior KPMG officials – the firm’s national chairman for Australia Alison Kitchen and the firm’s Victorian chairmen Carmel Mortell.

The Big Four firm has also pledged a donation to support victims of the fire, and is currently seeking other ways in which it can contribute. One such consideration is to offer its staff more flexibility in its volunteer leave programme, in the case they wish to help out and be of service in the affected areas.

The race is traditionally is big attraction for the business elite in Australia, with a number of high profile regulars. These include former Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull, former AMP Chairman Simon McKeon, chief executive at Latitude Financial Ahmed Fahour, and several others.

The leaders still met last Friday for a lunch event, where they discussed core issues such as digital advancement, economic policy and other economic trends.