17 July 2022

Future of Wakefield Park uncertain after court ruling, owners 'actively looking' at ACT

| James Coleman
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Wakefield Park

Wakefield Park near Goulburn is now limited to four days a month of motorsport action. Photo: James Coleman.

The region’s only race track has been dealt a shattering blow by the NSW Land and Environment Court and its owners are now actively looking into building a new motorsport complex over the border in the ACT.

Wakefield Park Raceway has been at loggerheads with Goulburn Mulwaree Council since July 2021 when the former council voted to approve a development application, subject to conditions.

In response to submissions by nearby residents, Wakefield Park would have to control both the regularity and level of sound generated at the raceway. The owners, Benalla Auto Club (BAC), argued these conditions were “unworkable” and took the council to court in March this year.

READ ALSO Tensions rise over Wakefield Park as Goulburn chamber reveals fears of Canberra move

NSW Land and Environment Court Commissioner Tim Horton handed down the judgment on 14 July. While the building works have been approved, new noise limits effectively restrict Wakefield Park to 30 days of operation per year.

A statement from BAC entitled ‘Wakefield Park in Peril’ describes the viability of the motorsport facility as “uncertain”.

“During the proceedings, council proposed further and more stringent conditions. While Wakefield Park’s appeal was upheld by the court, the court largely adopted council’s proposed conditions.

“These severely restrict the number of days per year that the circuit can operate at various noise thresholds. Their effect will make it impossible to operate as a sustainable business.”

Wakefield Park Raceway

Wakefield Park is located about a 10-minute drive from Goulburn. Photo: Supplied.

Wakefield Park is now cutting its events to no more than four per month until “an alternative pathway is determined”. This includes the cancellation of a motorcycle ride day which was to be held on Sunday, 17 July.

BAC describes the decision as a “shattering blow”. BAC submitted the DA so it could upgrade and improve Wakefield Park’s facilities.

“BAC recognises the importance of Wakefield Park not only to the local economy but also to the wider motorsport and automotive industries,” the statement read.

“It remains committed to exploring all options with every level of government to preserve the facility.”

READ ALSO Reflections on tragic Royal Canberra Hospital implosion, one of the capital’s darkest days

Goulburn Mulwaree Council mayor Peter Walker said the former council decided to go to court and the new councillors “have new beliefs”.

“The determination that’s been put out is very disappointing,” Mr Walker said.

“We want to support Wakefield Park to continue to be part of our community because already there are quite devastating effects on tourism and event bookings.”

Cars on a race track

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

The council is planning to meet with Wakefield Park management “as a matter of urgency” to discuss a way forward.

For some time now, it’s understood BAC has been in conversations with the ACT Government about moving to land that is already zoned for this sort of infrastructure.

BAC spokesperson Dean Chapman confirmed these conversations are ongoing.

“There’s still intention there will be a race track in Canberra and BAC would want to be part of it,” he told Region.

“There have been meetings [with the ACT Government] to talk about locations and we are actively looking at a couple of options. I’m just waiting on an email with that information.”

READ MORE It’s official, Canberra needs a race track

Daniel Flanagan from Fifth Gear Motoring uses Wakefield Park 25 to 30 days a year for various training programs, including defensive driving, advanced driving, and driving experiences for those with special needs. He described the news as devastating.

“It’s going to hurt us to the tune of 15 to 2o per cent of our revenue,” Mr Flanagan said.

“It’s like telling a cafe owner to spend a fortune on making the most incredible, state-of-the-art fit-out, but the catch is, you can only open one day a week.”

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James-T-Kirk5:17 pm 21 Jul 22

Goulburn??? I remember when it was a vibrant town – Then it got bypassed, and then the Nimbys moved into an area with a racetrack and complained… It used to have automotive works out near the Jail – now without the raceway, they will close as well, and it will just be support infrastructure for the jail!… Thank Nimbys – You have destroyed the town. At least its only a short drive to Canberra to get your milk. No tourism for you!

I assume they will be able to race electric cars post 2035! The noise level will certainly be lower!!!

ChrisinTurner1:41 pm 17 Jul 22

Apparently the ACT is the only jurisdiction with unenforced noise regulations. We have to suffer Summernat hoons, a proposed V8 racing circuit at EPIC and now another speedway. Motorbikes without silencers are allowed in residential areas and pet dogs get locked out all day on apartment verandahs where they bark at anything that moves, out of sheer boredom. Not the garden city I moved to in 1988.

Oh please! How do you ‘suffer’, for 4 days a year? How do you ‘suffer’ from a proposed race circuit? Why would you have a dog in an apartment? Garden city? Lost that when the Barr Govt sold out to the developers…

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