The dispute between Wakefield Park and Goulburn Mulwaree Council has stepped up a gear, with a court date now set for 8 March.
As tensions escalate, council has alleged Wakefield Park Raceway exceeded its noise limit on more than 500 occasions over the weekend of 19 and 20 February. The council has now issued a show-cause notice to management, asking why it should not pursue further action.
A court date is already set for next month with Wakefield Park management, the Benalla Auto Club, over the future operation of the facility.
The raceway operators have threatened to leave Goulburn if the council is unwilling to budge on proposed noise conditions, which the auto club says will make the raceway unviable. There were hopes both parties could meet an agreement before heading off to court. That is looking increasingly unlikely.
On 23 February, council issued a statement revealing it had issued the show-cause notice over alleged breaches of agreed noise limit restrictions.
The current agreement is that noise levels should never exceed 95dB when measured 30 metres from the track, however it’s alleged the raceway recorded noise over this limit more than 500 times, reaching a maximum of 124.1dB, which the council compared to a “jumbo jet taking off”.
The council release stressed that it remained eager to find a resolution suited to all parties.
“Council has been very keen for over five years to reach a compromise and a workable solution to ensure Wakefield Park can live in harmony with its neighbours and continue to operate a successful and profitable business,” the release said.
“Nobody, including the neighbours, have ever wanted Wakefield Park to stop operating as we all agree that this facility is good for the greater Goulburn Mulwaree economy.”
Goulburn Mulwaree Council opted not to provide further comment on the matter, pointing to the impending court battle.
Wakefield Park operations manager Dean Chapman also refused to comment.
With the dispute dragging on, Goulburn Chamber of Commerce President Darrell Weekes said there was “absolute concern” that the Benalla Auto Group would pick up and move to the ACT.
“I know that the Benalla Auto Club has had conversations with the ACT Government. I know the ACT Government has land that is already zoned,” Mr Weekes said.
“If Benalla Auto Club has to spend more money on Wakefield than it would cost them to move the entire infrastructure then, as a board, you would go ‘let’s just move the infrastructure’.
“I suspect the ACT Government would be rather open to the idea of financially supporting them and encouraging them to make the move.”
Mr Weekes believes the Goulburn Mulwaree Council is within its rights to follow the processes in place but urged it to search for leeway within those processes. He also proposed some “left-field” thinking to find a workable solution for both parties.
“Everybody seems to be looking at Wakefield Park and saying that because this is where the noise emanates from, then we should make Wakefield Park quieter and that will solve the problem,” Mr Weekes said.
“I liken it to Sydney Airport. You can’t make jets quieter, so how did they deal with that? Well, they dealt with the individual residents and insulated their homes.
“Rather than looking at making Wakefield Park quieter, you could look at making those affected by the noise, less affected.”
He argued that Wakefield Park would become quieter soon with the rise of electric vehicles.
Mr Weekes cautioned that there might not be anyone willing to purchase the track should the Benalla Auto Club move away.
“The arguments I hear are that someone else will buy it, but if you can’t run it and you can’t make a profit, then you can’t buy it,” he said.
“The track needs resurfacing. That’s about a $3 million job just to resurface and who is going to spend $3 million in resurfacing a track that they can’t run?”
Ultimately, he believes keeping the raceway in Goulburn is crucial for the local economy. The chamber estimates that the raceway contributes up to $18 million a year to the Goulburn economy.