Des Morrison: Council is bringing motor racing back home

By Des Morrison

Jamie Whincup's Falcon at Pukekohe in 2007.
Photo / Getty Images
Jamie Whincup's Falcon at Pukekohe in 2007. Photo / Getty Images

Pukekohe has been the home of motorsport in New Zealand for almost 50 years. We now have the opportunity to ensure that tradition continues at the same time as safeguarding the region's ratepayers.

I support bringing the V8 Supercars back to motorsport's traditional home not simply because it is a great event for Pukekohe or because of the economic benefit it will bring the southern part of the region, but because it will be good for Auckland and the country as a whole.

You might not personally like motorsport, but different events bring a city to life. Council should support a range of them for people from all walks of life, with various tastes and in different parts of the region. If an event stacks up with our strategy and will bring new money into Auckland then we should at least consider it.

Supporting this event doesn't mean people are wrong to ask tough questions about the history of the V8s in New Zealand. Public money is going into this event and mistakes made elsewhere should not be repeated.

Over the past two weeks there has been a lot of coverage for this event and a fair bit of misinformation that needs to be addressed.

The first point is that our involvement is as a commercial sponsor rather than as an event organiser or underwriter, and our contribution has been capped at $2.1 million per year. That is why it is different from the race in Hamilton where the local council supported the delivery of the event, took the risk and spent millions of dollars getting the street track ready each time.

Racing on an existing track means lower costs, less disruption and fewer risks overall.

The decision to proceed with Pukekohe was one for the organisers, V8 Supercars, who were clear that they would not underwrite or deliver an event somewhere else in New Zealand.

What people need to know is that a fine toothcomb has been run over the proposal from V8 Supercars, the individuals and the organisations involved. Part of the process was commercially sensitive and cannot be released, otherwise council couldn't do business with private companies.

Importantly, the process is not over yet. Auckland Council's strategy and finance committee resolved to form an advisory group after we voted to support the event. The group includes five councillors as well as Franklin Local Board chair Andy Baker.

The benefits of the V8 Supercars to Auckland are undeniable: 50,000 visitor nights per year, 130,000 spectators over the three-day event. It requires no new ratepayer funding. We are not underwriting the event. We will get a race every year for five years with a likely extension to 10. This will be one of the biggest sporting events in Auckland since Rugby World Cup 2011. This also talks to what we are trying to achieve in the new Auckland. It's not all about the waterfront and flash new art galleries and theatres in the central city. It's also about ensuring the rest of Auckland doesn't miss out by sharing the growth and benefits around.

And I'm not just talking about the period of the event. I'm talking about leveraging the V8s so Pukekohe benefits all year round. An automotive cluster already exists in the town, servicing motor racing, drag racing and international rallying. This has spawned specialist expertise in motor rebuilding, chassis building, spray painting and panel beating which has also extended into classic car restoration.

Recognising that, the Manukau Institute of Technology has established a remote campus in Pukekohe, taking school leavers and putting them through courses that prepare them for employment in those industries. The return of the V8s for an established period of time is the catalyst that will allow Auckland Council, ATEED, the industry and tertiary institutions to take this embryonic automotive cluster to the next level, providing a centre of excellence and creating more jobs.

Ever since the New Zealand Grand Prix moved to Pukekohe from Ardmore aerodrome in 1963, the excitement of motorsport has attracted people of all walks of life and from all over New Zealand to the Pukekohe Park circuit. Motor racing is heading back to its traditional home.

- Herald on Sunday

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