Pay or don’t play

| Photographer Credit: Terry Marshall/Euan Cameron Photography

There are two certain things in life, according to Benjamin Franklyn. Death and Taxes. While death is finite, we all want a fair tax system but the reality is that we will never all agree.

Currently there is discussion taking place with regard to the future of motorsport volunteers, which it is suggested that numbers are declining.

It is not a situation unique to motorsport. All sports, clubs and events have in the past, the present and will in the future, have problems organising volunteers in order for activities to take place.

Highlands Motorsport Park in Cromwell are currently driving a campaign to increase volunteer numbers by using what they consider motorsports best resource – its competitors.

As a discussion topic at the MotorSport NZ Conference held in May 2019, the request was made that part of the licensing process for all competition licences in NZ, that each competitor MUST volunteer for a day at an MSNZ permitted event in that licence year.

As of 15 April 2019, MotorSport NZ licence numbers were 5,008 competition and 783 officials.

For those competitors that don’t volunteer, that there will be an extra charge (tax) to renew their licence.

The idea is that all circuits in NZ agree on this proposal and that MSNZ adopts the volunteer levy system nationwide.

Currently Highlands are trialing a levy system from October 2019. Competitors wishing to race at the circuit must either nominate themselves to volunteer at a future Highlands event or provide a volunteer for the event the competitor is entering, or pay $100 competitor volunteer levy. (Note: A competitor’s nominated volunteer would go into a ballot system for the event.)

For those that choose not to volunteer or pay the $100 levy, there will be a $250 penalty levy and will not be permitted to race at Highlands again until the penalty levy is paid.

So let’s take the Castrol Toyota Racing Series. Twenty drivers, including 17 internationals will head to Highlands next week to compete in the opening round of the 2020 series. It is unlikely that each driver will volunteer or provide a volunteer for Highlands. It is more likely that 20 drivers will not know a thing about the volunteer program and that Toyota GAZOO Racing New Zealand will pay the levy ($2,000) to Highlands.

What about the Central Muscle Cars which will field 25-cars at the Highlands event. Each driver will have an entry fee of approximately $560 for the Speed Works round and one would guess that again, each driver will probably pay the $100 levy. Highlands collects another $2,500.

This leads to the question, what happens to the levy that is collected, whether by Highlands or MSNZ?

The idea of competitors volunteering for one day a year has merit. Many competitors would then get a better understanding of the other side of racing. It could solve the issue of volunteer numbers but it may also raise other problems.

Geographically the Canterbury Car Club in Christchurch has a greater pool or population to draw its volunteer force from while Highlands and the Bruce McLaren Motorsport Park, Taupo, have much less.

If competitors did volunteer for one day, it doesn’t necessarily solve the imbalance of the population bias that the Canterbury Car Club has compared with Highlands. The CCC has around 1,000 members. Those with competition licences may well wish to only volunteer to work at their own club.

The key difficulty is introducing it from the top down and not getting buy-in from the key stakeholders – the competitors. It is effectively enforcing a compulsory activity or be taxed. No one likes to be faced with an extra levy and one would think that the majority of competitors just want to rock up to a circuit, pay their entry fee and race. Whether that entry fee incorporates a ‘volunteer levy’ or not is up to the organisers and market forces. It doesn’t necessarily solve the problem of providing volunteers unless the levy is used to entice them.

The Highlands Motorsport Park is unique. Most love it and want to race there but the reality is that it will be only once a year.

Taxes and death are certain. Over-taxing could bring about a certain death of activity as competitors will ultimately chose where they will play. It doesn’t necessarily solve the issue of finding volunteers but it does start what may be a much needed discussion.

Benjamin Carrell

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!

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