24 October 2022

25,000 sign on in fight to save Wakefield Park

| James Coleman
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Wakefield Park Raceway staff

Former staff and volunteers – as well as local fans and businesses – aren’t giving up on Wakefield Park Raceway yet. Photo: Wakefield Park Raceway, Facebook.

The last flag fell on Wakefield Park Raceway nearly two months ago in a dispute over noise that ended in court. But “a myriad of supporters” are determined to win.

‘Save Wakefield Park’ is the clarion call of more than motorsport participants, officials, volunteers, spectators and enthusiasts – as well as local business owners and community groups – from across NSW, the ACT and Australia. The group created its own website and Facebook page and has now taken up its cause with the NSW Government in an online petition.

The owners of the 2.2-kilometre tarmac circuit near Goulburn, Benalla Auto Club (BAC), lodged a development application with the former Goulburn-Mulwaree Council in September 2020. The council initially refused but then granted it in July 2021, provided the racetrack was operational no more than four days per month.

READ ALSO Wakefield Park owners eager to race into Canberra, but government already tapping the brakes

BAC judged these conditions unworkable and closed the track, letting go of 21 staff members on 31 August 2022.

The petition, lodged on 7 October and championed by Labor’s Shadow Minister for Sport Julia Finn, states that the NSW Land and Environment Court’s ruling has “devastated motorsport enthusiasts, Goulburn-Mulwaree business owners and the broader community who consider WPR the lifeblood of Goulburn”. It estimates the loss to the local economy at $15 to 30 million per annum.

It asks the NSW Parliament, especially Minister for Planning Anthony Roberts, to use his powers to “identify suitable, long-term options to reinstate and protect WPR’s future as a viable motor-racing circuit … as soon as possible”.

Cars on racetrack

Driver training was a regular event at Wakefield Park Raceway. Photo: James Coleman.

As of today (24 October), the petition has attracted more than 25,000 signatures in 17 days. (For context, the estimated population of Goulburn as of 2021 was 32,138.) A minimum of 20,000 signatures is required within three weeks for the matter to be tabled and debated in the NSW Parliament. Only NSW residents are allowed to sign it.

The petition was created by Motorsport Australia official and Wakefield Park Raceway senior motorsport official Jessica Nicholson who was clerk of the course and ran the majority of the race meetings for 15 years.

READ ALSO To the hundreds of Canberrans waiting for the new Ford Ranger: it’s an absolute br-ute

On the last day, she took part in the ‘Save Wakefield Park’ cruise that had hundreds of cars parked on the surrounding grass to watch the last laps.

“A lot of the guys I have trained and mentored over the years were there running that race meeting. It’s a very inclusive venue, and that’s why we’re missing it so badly. I don’t get to see my motorsport family as much.”

She describes the reaction to the petition as “really good”, racking up 10,000 signatures from people across NSW within the first three days.

“It’s anyone who has any interest in motorsport, as well as a lot of the local businesses because we know they are hurting as well. The traffic of visitors to the town just isn’t there anymore.”

Woman holding sign at a race track

Jessica Nicholson was a senior motorsport official at Wakefield Park Raceway. Photo: Jessica Nicholson, Facebook.

Jessica says they have also been in talks with other members of the NSW Parliament; chiefly, Liberal Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman, “but she hasn’t been as vocal as we were hoping”.

Sam Keogh was an ACT-based volunteer for Wakefield Park Raceway, tasked with controlling the last race as clerk of the course.

“It had been a really great weekend, with a strong sense of community and everybody coming together. And to be there to wave the last chequered flag, it was bittersweet.”

READ ALSO Those magnificent men (and women) and their kinetic machines prepare for race across Canberra

Not only was Wakefield Park a meeting place for thousands of motoring enthusiasts every year, keen to safely give their car a good run, but it also hosted national motorsports events, learner and advanced driver training, and driving experiences for blind and low-vision people.

“It’s really important to maintain these facilities so Goulburn continues to be capable of running these national-level race meetings,” Sam says.

The petition closes on 28 October. Save Wakefield Park will be notified in writing when it will be tabled within the NSW Parliament. Due to the diminishing number of sitting days this year, this may not be until early 2023.

Original Article published by James Coleman on About Regional.

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