Canberra touted as Wakefield Park alternative

Wakefield Park Raceway. Picture: Wakefield Park Facebook

A new circuit in Canberra is being considered as a possible replacement for Wakefield Park due to the latter’s ongoing planning issues.

Wakefield Park Raceway is currently the subject of proceedings in the New South Wales Land and Environment Court (LEC) over provisional approval of a planning application last year.

Management of the Benalla Auto Club-owned circuit believes the three-tier noise limits, set to take full effect in 2024, represent a threat to the viability of their operations in Goulburn.

A compromise could still be possible, based on a motion put forward to tonight’s Goulburn Mulwaree Council meeting by a newly-elected councillor, although advice from council’s general manager suggests it will have little impact on how court proceedings will play out in March.

Regardless, setting up a new track in the nation’s capital remains a fallback option.

Wakefield Park operations manager Dean Chapman told Speedcafe.com late last week, “We had a meeting late last year with a member of the ACT Government, and we’re potentially still working on that at the moment.

“We’re definitely researching the possibility of what Canberra can offer us if we were to bring a facility to Canberra, especially due to the population, population growth, ease to get there, and the infrastructure around it.

“You can only see with the likes of Summernats, the want for motorsport in the ACT is extremely high, especially considering we haven’t had a dragway in 20-odd years.”

The Goulburn facility is one of only two permanent race tracks in NSW and hence effectively Sydney’s second circuit, notwithstanding that it is around two hour’s drive away.

Canberra is further from the NSW capital, although by less than an hour, accessible by the same Hume Highway and then the Federal Highway.

Wakefield Park opened in 1994 and, aside from a prevention notice issued in January 2020 which gave interim approval for its operations, is still subject to the original 1993 development consent.

According to correspondence from council’s general manager in the agenda for tonight’s ordinary meeting, “The 1993 Development Consent remains current until such time as the applicant demonstrates commencement in accordance with the new consent, or alternatively surrenders the 1993 consent. Neither has occurred.”

Furthermore, the general manager claims council’s role in the process as a decision-maker is now “spent”, with the LEC to make a call next month.

The motion, including full correspondence from the general manager, is reproduced below

Motor racing in the Australian Capital Territory, in the form of Supercars’ 2002 Canberra 400 event. Picture: Mark Horsburgh

Tonight’s meeting is the second in the new term, with NSW local government elections being held last December, shortly after mediation talks between Wakefield Park and Goulburn Mulwaree Council failed.

Canberra has also been the subject in recent times of a separate plan for a Supercars street event, although that is believed to be only at a relatively early stage.

Outgoing Supercars CEO Sean Seamer said in October last year that a stop in the Australian Capital Territory was on the championship’s “medium-term horizon.”

Wakefield Park is set to host the Australian Superbike Championship this April, and last saw the Shannons Motorsport Australia Championships in November 2017.

Excerpt from Ordinary Council Meeting Agenda: February 1, 2022

13.1 NOTICE OF MOTION – WAKEFIELD PARK LEGAL CHALLENGE

Attachments: Nil

I, Councillor Jason Shepherd, give notice that at the next Ordinary Meeting of Council be held on 1 February 2022, I intend to move the following motion:-

MOTION

That Council arrange separate “without prejudice” briefings with the Wakefield Park management (applicants) and the submitters to listen to their views in regard to the decision of Council at the Extraordinary meeting of Council on the 22nd June 2021 and resuming on the 13th July 2021 that determined in part:-

Consent be granted for DA/0117/2021 for Alterations and Additions to Recreation Facility (major) located at Lot 1 DP 832905, 4770 Braidwood Road Tirrannaville, subject to the following conditions. (Conditions available on website).

RATIONALE

As Councillors have been discussing over the past few weeks informally that there is value in meeting with Wakefield Park and the effected residents as soon as possible to see if there is a way forward within planning and environmental boundaries that allows them to be commercially viable whilst mitigating residents’ concerns.

The General Manager has provided the following advice on the Thursday 20th January 2022

I am responding to all Councillors as I know there is considerable interest in the Wakefield Park issue

Firstly some background

Wakefield Park (WPR) owners lodged an appeal to the Land Environment Court prior to Council making a decision (in fact the day before the Council hearings started). Their grounds was deemed refusal but that has now been changed to appeal against the Council decision. There are a number of grounds to the appeal but the majority of the issues are in association around noise and days of operation.

Their only consent dates prior to this application was by previous owners in 1993. That consent allows for 12 race events per year. The 1993 Development Consent remains current until such time as the applicant demonstrates commencement in accordance with the new consent, or alternatively surrenders the 1993 consent. Neither has occurred

In January 2020 with the support of a Council resolution we had a mediation conference with the Land and Environment Court to control the noise. This prevention notice was considered an interim measure until Wakefield Park could lodge a new DA to regularise the activities that were actually taking place on site. This prevention notice was revoked by resolution of Council following its determination of the new DA, and subsequently a new notice put in place in accordance with Council determination.

The Council determination was to transition the number of noisy to a quieter venue over a two year period commencing 1st January 2022

The noise limits from the Council determination are as follows

The final noise levels effective from 1st January 2024 can be summarised as follows:-

Red Category Not to exceed 95dBA LAeq 15min for a maximum of 30 days per year

Amber Category Not to exceed 85dB (A) LAeq 15min for 100 days per year

Green Category Not to exceed 75dB (A) LAeq 15min for 157 days per year

Blue Category Not to exceed 75dB (A) LAmax (Fast) for 76 days per year

No operations on Christmas Day and Good Friday. Leap year day becomes a green day

LAeq 15min means an average of noise level over 15 minutes. So in effect, if we take the reen day, for example, they could have 7.5minutes of a very noisy operation followed by 7.5 minutes of no noise and still theoretically comply with the Council determination as the average noise level would not exceed 75dBA.

LAmax(Fast) is the maximum noise level permitted at any one time – i.e. an instant measurement – which is only effective in the blue category for 76 days per year (or the equivalent of 1.5 days per week).

We have participated in a Section 34 conference with Wakefield Park on 25 November 2021. It was clear from that conference that the commissioner appointed by the Land and Environment Court believed that the LAeq15min was inappropriate, and that the LAmax (fast) would be a better outcome for neighbouring properties. She made the statement that there was too much flexibility with the current determination of Council which could lead to avoidable environmental impact.

It is fair to say that these noise limits imposed in the Council determination were derived from modelling undertaken by WPR’s previous noise consultant We have sought verbal legal advice on Council’s ability to revisit this determination and have been advised of the following:

  1. Council’s role in the process as a decision making body is now “spent”. The process is firmly entrenched with the court.
  2. Council could direct the General Manager by way of public resolution to carry out the defence in a certain way. Council could also publicly resolve to not defend at all. However, this doesn’t mean that the Court will accept this position, and it is highly likely that they won’t because the determination of Council was the result of a legal process that followed the parameters as determined by parliament in the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979. Please note the Court determines all matters of contention as new matters with their assessment starting from scratch.
  3. Now that the matter is with the Court, the expectation of the Court is that experts in the relevant fields put forward the applicable evidence for the Court to determine the most appropriate outcome. The Court would need to be satisfied that no adverse environmental impact would result from the determination. It is noted that environmental impact is likely to trump economic benefit based upon the determining body (in this case, the Court, etc.) being required to have regard for the objectives of the Environmental Planning & Assessment Act 1979. .
  4. What are the option for Wakefield Park?
    • They could withdraw the appeal, or even surrender the consent recently granted by Council. This would however put the matter back with the only approval being the 1993 consent and there would be considerable pressure upon Council to invoke compliance with the conditions of that consent. Noting that if Council does nothing to implement compliance the submitters (neighbours) could take this matter to court and would have very strong grounds for success as they can and have proven beyond all doubt that environmental impact has occurred.
    • They could either lodge a new DA or Modification (if DA not surrendered) for Council to consider.
    • If Wakefield Park did lodge a Modification, Council could ask the court to pause the litigation until any new application is determined, however the Court is unlikely to agree to this course of action given how far the matter has advanced.

In answer to your questions below, particularly relating to Councillors meeting with Wakefield Park and the submitters, the answer is yes but would have to be on a “without prejudice” basis taking into consideration that we are in the midst of a legal process. It is my opinion that any such meeting would have minimal (if any) effect on the current Court proceedings.

This notice of motion is seeking that Council meets “without prejudice” have a separate informal briefing the Wakefield Park – as applicants – and the effected [sic] residents to discuss the Council determination of the Development application in June and July last year

I commend this Notice of Motion to Council.

Cr Jason Shepherd

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