When new Goulburn Mulwaree Mayor Peter Walker pitched to his fellow councillors at this year’s mayoral election, a key part of his vision was restoring the council’s fractured relationship with Wakefield Park Raceway.
Nevertheless, with a March court date drawing near, Wakefield Park management has yet to hear from anyone in the new council and is still exploring alternative options for a new home.
After more than 27 years in Goulburn, Wakefield Park has found itself in an ongoing legal dispute with Goulburn Mulwaree Council. The central concern revolves around noise restrictions at the venue, with nearby residents complaining about both the frequency and volume of noise motorsport generates.
When Goulburn Mulwaree Council approved Wakefield Park’s most recent development application at a meeting in July 2021, it was with what the organisation considers unfavourable operating conditions attached. Wakefield Park representatives believe that under the conditions offered by council, the raceway would no longer be viable in Goulburn.
They subsequently pursued legal action, and the court date is set for early March.
However, Wakefield Park did not want to wait on a court’s decision and quickly began exploring alternative options for a new home. These options included a move over the border to Canberra.
Under former Goulburn Mulwaree Mayor Bob Kirk’s leadership, the council wanted to wait on the court’s decision before moving to renegotiate with the raceway operators.
In new Mayor Peter Walker’s pitch to incoming councillors, he stressed the importance of action and said it was not too late to turn things around.
Wakefield Park Raceway Operations Manager Dean Chapman said that while there is yet to be any formal communication from the council, he hopes they can avoid the forthcoming court date.
“It is good to see support from a number of councillors come through. I think in the past we’ve seen some great support but what we’re very concerned about is the timeframe that we’ve got at the moment before we go to court,” Mr Chapman said.
“There’s a lot of money to be spent there within the courtroom, and I believe that we could still find a neutral ground outside of that process.”
Despite a level of optimism coming from the mayoral election, he said they had “absolutely” not stopped exploring their options.
“We are currently actively working to look at several other options. Canberra is not the only area that we are considering, but it is definitely on the table as a potential opportunity for a motorsport precinct,” said Mr Chapman.
“We’re actively looking in the communities that we suspect have potential opportunities and whether or not they will see the benefit of it. We know the benefit of it here in Goulburn from hearing from the local businesses.”
He stressed that while these options were on the table, the goal remains to stay in Goulburn, but only if the relationship with council can be restored.
News of a defection to the ACT would be welcomed by Canberra motorsport enthusiasts.
Vice-president of Canberra Kart Racing Club Tahn Eather said the club’s 500-strong membership group was a testament to the level of demand for motorsport facilities in the ACT.
“I think there’s plenty of interest, and there has been for a long time, but there have just never been facilities,” he said.
“Kids start karting here as young as seven, and when most kids step up [progress with their racing] they have to travel all over the place, and Wakefield is a big part of that.”