It may be the best news to come from Australian motorsport for sometime, with the announcement that the New Zealand round of the 2020 Virgin Australia Supercars Championship is shifting from Pukekohe Park Raceway to Hampton Downs in the North Waikato. It appears that one of the events organiser’s did not apply in time for resource consent to run a motorsport event at Pukekohe Park on ANZAC Day, 25 April as per the Auckland Unitary Plan. This specifically outlines that motorsport events cannot take place on certain days of the year, including ANZAC Day.
Arguably organisers, specifically the Auckland Tourism Events & Economic Development (ATEED), had fore-warning that tighter noise controls would come into force, as far back as May 2012. A report from Tattico Ltd to ATEED evaluating the moving of the V8 Supercars event from Hamilton to either Pukekohe, Whenuapai and Hampton Downs specifically mentioned that the then Franklin District Council would be seeking to ‘introduce tighter noise controls for motor racing activities at the (Pukekohe) track.’
At that time in 2012 there was quite a concerted effort by some Pukekohe locals to stop the Supercars from returning due to the perceived lack of noise control at the track.
One would presume that someone would have known about the noise control in the Auckland Unitary Plan affecting Pukekohe Park Raceway. But then, as they say, ‘Presumption is the mother of all stuff-ups!’. What’s done is done and we will let those Pukekohe stakeholders sort out amongst themselves what recompense should take place.
Meanwhile, it is now time for a proper race track such as Hampton Downs to get an event of significance and the ITM Auckland Super400 has been handed to them on a plate. Now the task at hand for circuit Chief Operating Officer Josie Spillane and her team is to keep the Supercars event long term in the North Waikato.
It will not be without its obstacles as there has always been a two-fold problem with running such an event at Hampton Downs. Again, these were identified early in the Tattico report to ATEED back in 2012.
Its advantages are that Hampton Downs is within easy driving distance from Auckland city with a well-serviced motorway.
It is isolated from adjacent residential housing and activity, essentially surrounded by farmland.
There are relatively few stakeholders involved.
It is reported that the circuit has consent for a maximum of 20,000 people per day so additional consent will be required for the approximately 50,000 people that a Supercars event would generate.
The overriding issue will be traffic control with questionable capacity to get large volumes either off or onto State Highway One. Again, this will require an additional management plan. Both obstacles can be overcome and there is time to do so.
Let’s also not forget some key points from Supercars history in NZ
1/ The Virgin Australia Supercars Championship is a FIA accredited international series. The emphasis is on the word ‘international’ meaning that the series must have one event per season in another country. NZ is that vital component to Supercars. They have tried to introduce other international rounds in Bahrain, Malaysia, China and the USA but without success. Hence NZ is key to keeping their FIA international status.
2/ Supercars left Pukekohe for the Hamilton 400 Street Circuit between 2008-2012 with one of the reasons being that Pukekohe was deemed to bumpy.
3/ Supercars left Hamilton and went back to Pukekohe because it was nearer the main population of Auckland city. The bumpy Pukekohe track was now seen as unique and that it brought something special to the Supercars round.
In the end it doesn’t matter about what the spin-doctors will say. Someone or some group made a vital mistake and now Supercars will compete at Hampton Downs. It adds to the history of one of the greatest race weekends that takes place annually in NZ. This has to be a good thing for Kiwi motorsport and for Hampton Downs.