13 January 2022

I have one word for people complaining about noise at Wakefield Park Raceway: stop

| James Coleman
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Porsche racing at Wakefield Park Raceway

A Porsche 911 GT3 RS in its element at Wakefield Park Raceway, near Goulburn. Photo: James Coleman.

When asked the age-old question of whether I am a cat person or a dog person, without any hesitation, I pounce on ‘cat’.

Cats are evil. Winston Churchill once said they are the only animal that truly looks down on people.

Conversely, I know that dogs look up to people, are loyal, and can bring you your paper in the morning. Certainly, Mr Smiggle, the human resources representative here at the Region Media office, is a dog and he is an adorable little thing.

When I’m not tripping over him.

But dogs make noise. They whine, they bark, they yelp and they growl. More often than not, this is plain annoying.

Do I therefore think all dogs should be shot? No, I do not.

Similarly, I find it incredibly annoying when cyclists choose to ignore the cycle path that was expressly built for them, and clog the road with their gyrating buttocks. And I say this as someone who was once a cyclist with a gyrating buttocks (until the moment I got a car).

Pedal Power ACT is always lobbying for harsher penalties for motorists who get a little too touchy-feely with cyclists on our roads. Maybe that’s fair enough.

After all, do I think we should run cyclists off the roads just because they’re annoying? No, I do not. They have a right to do what they are doing and enjoy doing it safely.

Where am I going with this? I’m going to Wakefield Park Raceway, near Goulburn.

Cars at Wakefield Park Raceway

James Coleman’s humble Mazda 6 in the pit lane at Wakefield Park Raceway. Photo: James Coleman.

For years, the managers of the 2.2km racing circuit have been trying to get a new development approved through Goulburn Mulwaree Council, and at seemingly every turn, have been curtailed by noise complaints. The scuffle between the two has reached such a crescendo it’s currently being sorted out in the Land and Environment Court of NSW.

Wakefield Park Raceway opened in 1994 and sits in the sweet spot between Sydney and Canberra, attracting national motorsport events, driver training sessions, and track days – plus a considerable amount of tourism dollars – to the region every year.

It’s high time the facilities were treated to a refresh.

That’s the first thing – the track has been there longer than most of its neighbours.

The rule is simple: don’t buy a house near an airport if you don’t like aeroplanes. The same principle applies here.

GT3 race car

A car that meets noise regulations everywhere else doesn’t at Wakefield Park Raceway. Image: Screenshot.

Another thing is that I have been to Wakefield Park Raceway and it is literally in the middle of a paddock. Goulburn is still a 10-minute drive away so put the picture of a racetrack encircled by suburban houses, shops and office buildings out of your head.

No-one’s mug of coffee is being rattled every time a car goes past.

In my time at the track day, I took up a position on the sidelines to watch a McLaren and Porsche do battle on the circuit, and it has to be said that as they flew down past the pit lane, the noise was deafening.

But once they made it around to the distant side, I could have even heard one of my wife’s infernal bobby pins drop. A magpie lark called to its mate. A fellow spectator gently cleared his throat.

Car driving at Wakefield Park Raceway

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

But somehow, despite all this, the struggle is such that now Wakefield Park Raceway is considering packing up the whole show. And here’s the bittersweet news: it might be coming to Canberra.

I have no doubt that if and when it does eventuate here, noise complaints will follow.

Certainly, a word with the people from ACT Speedway in Pialligo reveals that hardly an event can go by without at least one letter of complaint coming across their desk the following morning.

So to those warriors about to take to their keyboards, I just want to head this off now: stop shooting the dogs.

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Of course, most people will not buy homes next to airports or raceways. That’s why the values drop. But there will always be someone to buy at the right price. So it’s pointless telling people not to if they don’t like noise. It’s not going to happen.

Thank God someone’s said it out loud. I dragged my father up there to assist me on a motorcycle ride day recently and he remarked that the Cotter Road on Sunday, which he lives well within earshot of. It was a big day too, about 80 people.

There’s tons of false and exaggerated claims in the complainant’s submissions, not to mention that several are clearly just copies of the same one. It’s well known amongst the motorsport community that Wakefield is the heaviest policed track expect for Lakeside. It’s hard to believe claims that it impedes communication in people’s houses nearly 2km away when one can easily converse in the carports at the track. The misunderstanding of noise standards, measurements and even basic acoustics in some was laughable.

The council planning department didn’t scrutinise the complaints nearly enough. Furthermore you have the zoning situation – which is the council’s fault – and the use of the ridiculous NSW EPA case example as a standard, which is a theoretical example, not law, and if actually applied would shut down every race track in the country. Of course the motorsport community has been asking for realistic standards and protection against new residents for decades.

Sadly there’s a strong likelihood of a tragic outcome here because it’s convenient for councils to accede to the demands of literal handful of ratepayers and ignore the community and societal benefit. But I can’t think of a single instance of a motorsport facility winning at a hearing.

I meant to say, he remarked that the noise is not that much more offensive than the Cotter Road.

ChrisinTurner11:32 pm 16 Jan 22

Once all the vehicles using Wakefield Parks are EVs the noise problem will be solved.

Artist Services4:33 pm 16 Jan 22

Jesus that long winded introduction was a waste of time and completely unnecessary.

Anyone wanting to know how a road-legal car can exceed the same noise level at the track may wish to read the testing standard.
The road standard does not presume you are flat chat (“ESMP”), as you will be at a track, hence where the track limit is set to the road standard then you can be legal in the first, not the second.

Whether the road standard should be a fixed track limit (applying a single criterion to quite distinct engine modes) is another question. It depends who is around. Apparently, the track could erect noise baffles but would find the cost prohibitive to their enterprise.

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