Wakefield Park future to be discussed in crucial council meeting
Monday 31st January, 2022 - 8:00am
The future of Wakefield Park Raceway will be a topic of discussion in a council meeting this Tuesday night, as court proceedings over its noise limits loom within weeks.
The fate of the Benalla Auto Club-owned circuit hangs in the balance as a result of last year’s conditionally approved development application, which is to be the subject of a New South Wales Land and Environment Court (LEC) hearing on March 8-10 after mediation with Goulburn Mulwaree Council and residents failed in November.
However, those proceedings could yet be avoided, depending on whether or not Wakefield Park and those key stakeholders can reach a compromise over how the circuit will operate going forward.
Cr Jason Shepherd, who was elected when Goulburn went to the polls in local government elections last December, has put forward a motion to the council meeting which takes place tomorrow night.
While mediation has already fallen over, just before that election, the motion could pave the way for further talks over the circuit’s operations.
“Councillors have been informally discussing over the past few weeks that there is value in meeting with Wakefield Park and the affected residents as soon as possible to see if there is a way forward within planning and environmental boundaries that allows (the raceway) to be commercially viable, while mitigating residents’ concerns,” states that motion.
Under the circuit’s conditionally approved development application, a three-tiered noise limit system would apply, implemented gradually and taking full effect in 2024.
While Wakefield Park has diversified its operations somewhat, motorsport is still the most important part of its business, and hence management considers the aforementioned limits infeasible.
It wants up to 75 days per year of noise up to 95 dBA, as few as 78 ‘respite’ days, being those with noise below 75 dBA, and thus around 200 days from 75 to 85 dBA.
Wakefield Park operations manager Dean Chapman told Speedcafe.com that he too is open to talks which would stave off an LEC hearing.
He also noted the importance of the circuit to motorsport in NSW given the heavy utilisation of Sydney Motorsport Park, the only other permanent race track in the state.
“We’re working for a workable solution for the motorsport community within New South Wales and Australia, but we’re also looking for an opportunity to ensure that we’re a good community member in Goulburn,” said Chapman.
“But it needs to be a workable solution for everybody involved.
“We don’t want to operate 365 days a year with race cars going around but we want the opportunity for motorsport to be able to flourish, and our business to have the opportunity in the area.
“There’s a middle, happy ground for everyone to get along, and I feel we can make that, especially before we go to a courtroom.”
Chapman is also open to any number of options which might alleviate the concerns of those residents who have objected to the circuit’s proposal.
“There’s always reasonable and feasible options, but they need to be reasonable and they need to be feasible to work,” he added.
“We can’t go build a dome over the top that’s worth x amount of money and we’ll never ever get a return on it, so it has to be a reasonable solution for not only the residents, but also us as well, to be able to keep operating.
“We’re obviously going to have to outlay a lot of dollars to be able to upgrade the venue, but if we’re able to do some small upgrades for the customers of Wakefield Park, and look at possible options, there’s always things that we can happily discuss at Wakefield Park.
“The door’s not closed on anything.”