8 Jun 2018

'Time is right' for speedway to move from Western Springs

From Checkpoint, 6:08 pm on 8 June 2018

Western Springs looks set to swap petrol and rubber for the cricket bat as the speedway announces it's moving on.

There's long been controversy over the sport's current location in Western Springs, with some vocal neighbours complaining about the noise.

After long fighting any move away the Speedway has now agreed it's time to go after almost 90 years.

"Rather than delay what was proving to be inevitable, the collective decision was made with the future of speed in mind," a Speedway statement said.

The Speedway today signed a memorandum of understanding with Auckland Council and Regional Facilities Auckland to start work to move to Colin Dale Park in 2020.

Future plans outline the space as a potential future cricket ground.

Graham Standring has been competing at Western Springs for more than 30 years, including taking out two of his four national titles there.

"I've been there virtually all my life. My mother sold tickets on the gate when I was very very young, then I was going there as a spectator for many many years, and then took up racing there in the 1983/84 season. So I'd raced right up until probably three years ago.

"I've got a life of Western Springs and a life of speedway."

While he said it would be sad to see the speedway move, he said it was time to move on.

Graham Standring

Graham Standring has been competing at Western Springs for the last 30 years. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

"Originally I would have done anything to save Western Springs and put up all sort of battles and street walks et cetera to maintain Western Springs as a speedway facility.

"More recently when I've seen the sport develop, the competitors getting faster, the logistics of getting in and out of the stadium becoming more and more difficult, I really think for the sport to progress it's time it moved on and now the time is right."

Mr Standring said the history and memory of the track would live on and fans would follow the sport to the new space.

"Let's go for it, let's turn our energy from fighting for something that we know is almost a sinking ship and put our energy into what we can achieve from the opportunity we've been granted. Let's go for it."

Over the years many locals have complained about the noise the speedway creates and that's led to more and more restrictions.

However, nearby residents spoken to by RNZ after the announcement said it would be a loss for the community.

Nigel Gray's property backs onto the speedway.

He said when the cars are racing, he can still happily watch a movie in his lounge without having the volume turned up.

"It's a really safe, nice kind of crowd. It's got a bit of stigma because people think it's kind of a bogan's kind of event but it's actually not. People are nice, safe and tidy. The streets are good, there's no impact on the community apart from 12 nights a year..."

He said, if anything, speedway was the best type of event held in the area.

"Any other event they try to put in there, unfortunately has a huge impact on the residents. Just from the City Limits and Big Day Out we get a massive volume of people that are just drunk and intoxicated at the end of the day. So moving it out and cricket in will have a huge impact on residents I think."

No caption

Nigel Gray's property backs onto the speedway. Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

He said a new local intersection couldn't cope with normal commuters let alone regular big scale events.

"I'd have speedway every day over cricket. I'm not against cricket but I've just seen, and we all have, seen the impact of cricket at Eden Park and the residents with road closures, road restrictions, the volume of people, the noise. We're just going to move one problem to another area.

"No offence to New Zealand cricket but take all your supporters somewhere else mate, I don't want them in my street."

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said the fact they'd been approached by Speedway with a decision to move was a win-win situation.

"It's a win for speedway because it is a new home and heart for speedway in Auckland ... It's a win for Ōtara-Papatoetoe and utilisation of Colin Dale Park ... and it's a win in opening up the potential of Western Springs for future activities in that area."

The city's venue development plan, eight years in the making, expects the site has the potential to be an ICC level cricket venue.

"At a certain point with the redevelopment of a new stadium, whether it be on Eden Park or in the city centre, a new stadium would be rectangular and that means at that point there would need to be a move by cricket," Mr Goff said.

However, he said while there was a desire by New Zealand Cricket to "get a decent oval in there", there was a lot of work to do including sorting out funding.

"Auckland Cricket and New Zealand Cricket have somewhat different views, they need to work together, reconcile those views, and determine, just as speedway has, in the long term what is the best outcome for cricket."