20 Nov 2018

Speedway move a waste of ratepayer money - stakeholder

9:48 pm on 20 November 2018

Auckland Council has voted to delay a decision about shifting speedway from Western Springs at a meeting tonight.

Western Springs Speedway 2018.

Western Springs Speedway 2018. Photo: Photosport

The proposal to shift speedway events from their central city location to Colin Dale Park in South Auckland was met with fierce opposition.

The council's finance and performance committee was meant to vote on whether to proceed with the plan but an amendment was put forward, seeking to defer the decision until there had been a political discussion about the future of all of Auckland's stadiums, including Eden Park.

That motion was passed by 11 votes to 9.

Costs for the proposed move, which would transform Colin Dale Park in Manukau into the country's top speedway destination, have ballooned to $30 million in recent months.

Earlier, council heard public submissions on the controversial idea this afternoon and the debate is still raging.

Gary Roberts, who worked as a speedway promoter for nearly 20 years, said the pricey proposal left him speechless.

"For the life of me I cannot see how a new stadium in South Auckland could be a financial success to the council or foreseeable promotors and competitors. As for ratepayers subsidising a new venue, this leaves me speechless.

"If that's the best we can do with ratepayers money I think we all need to take a very hard look at ourselves."

He said the proposed venture would spell disaster for the country's sport.

"After 90 years of speedway at Western Springs, and for our sport not to operate at this magnificent venue, it would be the biggest setback in the history of speedway in New Zealand."

Council deparments have flagged their support for the proposal that would build on an earlier investment in Colin Dale Park - but it won't come free.

The project would need $10m from the council and an additional $20m - currently unbudgeted - to create the track and facilties such as toilets and contestant pits.

But Wendy's restaurant boss and speedway stakeholder Danny Lendich said Colin Dale Park was simply too isolated to be a sucessful speedway destination.

"With any business that requires people you don't go to a place where there is no people. I know with our Wendy's hamburger chain we have properties around New Zealand but we won't build there because the demographics don't allow us to do it."

He backed Mr Roberts' submission that ratepayers' money would be better spent elsewhere.

"I'm a kidney transplant patient. I spent a lot of time in the Auckland Hospital. The Auckland City Council would be better off to put some money into the hospital. You need to take a trip up there and have a look."

Graham Standring, who has been competing at Western Springs for more than 30 years, said drivers he had spoken to were supportive of moving speedway to Colin Dale Park.

He said interest in speedway was growing but it the sport would struggle to expand at the current facility and the Manukau site would provide room for growth and better racing facilities.

Mr Standring said if the sport was good enough, punters would travel further to events.

"My belief is that once the racing improves the excitement continues and people will come."