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.
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 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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”