What started as a handful of noise complaints two years ago has become a full-blown election issue.
As political campaigns ramp up ahead of the NSW state election in March, the major parties are fighting over the stalemate at Wakefield Park Raceway in Goulburn.
If elected, labour has committed $1 million towards reopening the motorsports facility.
“The Wakefield Park Raceway is hugely important to Goulburn, providing not just driver training programs and recreational driving opportunities, but also tourism dollars and jobs,” NSW Labor leader Chris Minns said.
“An elected Labor government will work with the local council and stakeholders to resolve these issues and get this important facility back on track.”
The 2.2-kilometre tarmac circuit closed on 1 September 2022 after the owners judged new operating conditions imposed by the NSW Land and Environment Court “unworkable”.
This left Sydney Motorsport Park in Western Sydney as the only permanent motor-racing facility in NSW and Goulburn businesses struggling.
It’s estimated the track days, learn-to-drive programs, road testing of new vehicles, emergency services and Defence Forces training, and motorsport events held at Wakefield Park contributed more than $17 million every year to the Goulburn-Mulwaree regional economy.
Within three months, the local Liberal member Wendy Tuckerman faced growing community outcry and made “urgent representations to the Deputy Premier, the Sports Minister and Planning Minister”.
The Goulburn-Mulwaree Council also sought special economic status for the circuit, but that endeavour appears to have been unsuccessful.
A petition to reopen the track, sponsored by Shadow Minister for Sport Julia Finn, became the biggest petition in the history of the NSW Parliament. It garnered nearly 29,000 signatures in three weeks in October 2022.
A response to the petition was handed down by NSW Minister for Planning Anthony Roberts in mid-December, which argued the government doesn’t have the authority to intervene in decisions made by the Court.
“The Department has been advised by Goulburn-Mulwaree Council that it is working with the DA proponent towards an agreed outcome for the raceway,” Mr Roberts said in a letter addressed to the Save Wakefield Park group.
“I would encourage the petitioners to liaise with Council directly in relation to these matters.”
Advocate Jessica Nicholson described it as “a nothing response”.
“It’s the state government still stalling and not giving us an answer and not really wanting to do anything,” she told Region.
“It’s unfair the track is still not operating and the state government seems to be sitting on its hands.”
Ms Nicholson said Labor, as well as candidates from One Nation, have offered the most support so far.
An elected Minns government promises to fund noise-mitigation works at Wakefield Park and order the Department of Planning, Goulburn-Mulwaree Council and Office of Sport to put their heads together on a plan to reopen the track. This will be complemented by a “motorsports strategy” for NSW that ensures it remains open for recreational and competitive motorsport activities into the future.
“Wakefield Park is a Goulburn institution that is cherished dearly by our community,” Labor candidate for Goulburn Michael Pilbrow said.
“I am proud that a Minns Labor government will save Wakefield Park and ensure that jobs stay in our region.”
The plan is scarce on detail, something picked up on by Wendy Tuckerman, who described Labor’s plan as a “Band-Aid fix”.
“Labor demonstrates that they have absolutely no understanding of the issue at the heart of Wakefield Park’s closure. They have not consulted the committee and management,” she said.
“As the local member, I’m working on a plan to fix the noise issue, working on a plan to get the facility open, and working on a plan to protect the facility into the future. I can guarantee you $1 million will not be enough to make Wakefield Park viable for the owners to reopen the track.”
In the meantime, the Save Wakefield Park group has organised a public meeting at the Goulburn Worker’s Club on Sunday, 19 February, as “a chance for all political parties to explain their positions ahead of the state election”.
“While we are delighted that the Labor Party has taken the time to explore various options, we need to understand the detail behind what has been proposed and eagerly await the positions of the other political parties and what they are willing to commit to as the election draws nearer,” Ms Nicholson said.
Politicians, councillors, motorsport organisations, the Goulburn Chamber of Commerce, as well as local businesses and industries affected by the closure, have all been invited. Members of the public are also welcome.
Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.