18 April 2023

Wakefield Park's new owner has a plan for bigger and better racetrack by November

| James Coleman
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A Porsche in action at Wakefield Park Raceway before it closed in September 2022. Photo: James Coleman.

The new owner of the region’s biggest racetrack has flagged plans to reopen it in some form by the end of the year, bigger and better than before.

Steve Shelley from the Pheasant Wood Circuit in Marulan purchased Wakefield Park Raceway near Goulburn from long-time owner Benalla Auto Club in March this year.

It’s been the site of state-wide attention since September 2022 when the gates were closed indefinitely after a dispute over noise restrictions with the former Goulburn-Mulwaree Council ended in court.

Grassroots group Save Wakefield Park resulted in the biggest petition in NSW Parliament history, with 28,950 signatories calling on the government to intervene. Prior to the NSW election in March, both major parties promised to act, with an elected Labor government committing $1 million to the cause and the Liberal/Nationals $5 million.

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In a special meeting on Wednesday (12 April), Mr Shelley told the Goulburn Chamber of Commerce about his plans to lodge a development application within the next few months, with an eye to reopening the track in some form by November.

“There is considerable necessity to do that,” he said.

“It needs to be sooner rather than later because a lot of business is struggling without that floating population that enjoys motorsport.”

Wakefield Park is currently 2.2 kilometres long and incorporates two track layouts and a basic pit lane, but Mr Shelley flagged using a parcel of land to the south (the site of the Old Pelican Inn) to extend it by 1.1 kilometres.

He’d also undertake “significant re-engineering work” to address foundational and drainage issues, as well as noise-mitigation measures and resurfacing.

Wakefield Park Raceway

Wakefield Park Raceway is located off Braidwood Road, 10 minutes from Goulburn. Photo: Wakefield Park Raceway.

He said maintenance work at the site had been largely neglected for the past 15 years, and he found it difficult to understand why there were next to no anti-noise measures “given it had been an issue for decades”.

He said the Benalla Auto Club had also shown a “high level of disrespect” to the nearby residents, many of whom are fifth and sixth-generation farmers.

“Their views deserve to be respected.”

Mr Shelly said sound engineers would be brought in to advise on how this site could be laid out with earth mounds, natural barriers of vegetation and “disruption furrows” to contain the noise.

“We’ve looked at the layout and topography and decided that 50 per cent of noise comes down the hill and across the valley,” he said.

“The more we can flatten the land mass, the less noise we’ll generate across the valley where some of the residents live.”

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Facing Braidwood Road, a new “commercial centre” would help pay the bills by providing motor industry partners a place to set up shop fronts while also housing a restaurant or café and acting as a noise buffer.

Nothing is set in concrete yet, but it’s understood Mr Shelley has discussed the designs with the Goulburn-Mulwaree Council and anticipates a minimum cost of $10 million and investment of up to $30 million.

“There is a lot of work to be done and a lot of expense to be committed to,” he told the meeting.

“We’ve started by listening to neighbours’ concerns and we’ll use it as a foundation to build a new business.”

Steve Shelley with his son Jake in a garage at a racetrack

Steve Shelley, and his son Jake Shelley, at Bathurst in 2013. Photo: Steve Shelly, Facebook.

Newly elected NSW Premier Chris Minns previously committed $1 million towards reopening the track, which covered noise mitigation works and a state-wide ‘Motorsports Strategy’ to ensure the likes of Wakefield Park and the economic benefits are recognised and protected into the future.

In an update, a Labor spokesperson told Region Premier Minns is currently “receiving advice from the Department on the next steps towards the reopening of Wakefield Park”.

“In moving towards this goal, the Minns Government will work with the owners of the track to meet its election commitment to contribute $1 million towards noise mitigation measures.”

Liberal Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman, who retained her seat in the election, told Region she will continue to advocate for “significant funding … for investigative and planning work, as well as future noise-mitigation works”.

“The issues around Wakefield Park Raceway are complex and require a long-term fix, not a short-term Band-Aid solution,” she said.

“By working together with the new owner, our community and stakeholders, we have the best chance to shape a Wakefield Park Raceway that creates new jobs and boosts the Goulburn economy.”

Original Article published by James Coleman on Riotact.

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