Western Springs Stadium is an important recreational space for Auckland. Its significance was recognised in the Auckland Unitary Plan which, in 2015, zoned the stadium as a major recreation facility, not a Motorsport Precinct. Like all of the city's recreational facilities, Western Springs Stadium will have to deliver more, for more people, more often, as our population grows.
Under the Unitary Plan rules for the site, speedway activity is now restricted to 12 race nights and two practice sessions per year.
Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA), which manages the stadium on behalf of Auckland Council, has reviewed its use. We've also looked at options for its best use in the future, as part of the suite of facilities available across the city for sports, concerts, festivals and other recreational uses.
Western Springs is an important asset for Auckland and is significantly underutilised because of the presence of a speedway track at the venue.
The long-term sustainability of the venue is also a factor. The annual cost of maintaining Western Springs is almost four times what the venue hirer, Springs Promotions Ltd (SPL), as a private promoter, pays to use the venue for its speedway events. This adds to the opportunity cost to Auckland and to ratepayers in having speedway operate at Western Springs.
If speedway as a sport is going to be sustainable and have potential to grow, it must do so somewhere other than at Western Springs.
SPL's use of Western Springs for speedway will end at the end of next summer. SPL has been aware of this for years and that that the venue hire agreement, signed by them in 2013, included no right of renewal.
Since 2012, RFA has invested more than $500,000 as well as staff time and resources in its efforts to identify a facility for the speedway classes run at Western Springs.
RFA believes the sport and the interests of ratepayers will be better served by bringing all speedway classes together in a single, regional facility at Waikaraka Park in Onehunga that can cater for all speedway classes. In order to achieve this, RFA has been working with the Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board and the Auckland Stock and Saloon Car Club on a proposal to redevelop and enhance Waikaraka Park.
The benefits are clear. As a designated motorsport precinct within the Unitary Plan, Waikaraka Park can host up to 35 motorsport events each year, significantly more than the 14 motorsport events permitted at Western Springs. That's more opportunities for drivers, sponsors and supporters to enjoy motorsports - and enjoy them in a purpose-built venue.
Waikaraka Park will become home for motorsport and Western Springs Stadium will be freed up to meet the increased demands from a rapidly growing population for sports, recreation and entertainment opportunities. That's a very good outcome for the city.
• Paul Nisbet is director venue development strategy, Regional Facilities Auckland.