A businessman who has poured millions of dollars into speedway at Auckland's Western Springs has had a bust-up with Auckland Council over the future of the motorsport in the city.
Bill Buckley, who has run speedway at Western Springs since 2002, has called council chief executive Stephen Town the "lowest of the lowest" in a dispute over money and plans to move speedway.
Buckley has spent more than $5 million of his own money to support speedway, but baulked when he said Town asked him to plough a further $5 million towards a new home at Colin Dale Park.
I have never been kicked in the guts so hard
Town further infuriated Buckley when he wrote to him last month to say the council and its regional facilities body plan to invite other promoters to bid for the ongoing running of speedway in the city.
In a statement, Town said there had been a free and frank discussion with Buckley on confirming a new home for speedway in Auckland, describing the talks as cordial and amicable.
With his contract at Western Springs due to expire in two weeks on March 16, Buckley said he needed to tell about 150 competitors and car owners what was happening at a speedway meeting this weekend.
Buckley said moving to Colin Dale Park would make speedway better than ever, but the sport would have stay at Western Springs until a new track and facilities were built.
Moving speedway to Colin Dale Park near Auckland airport is part of a plan by Regional Facilities Auckland(RFA) to streamline Auckland's ageing and under-used stadiums.
The plan involves spending up to $91m to turn Western Springs into a cricket oval and hold AFL matches and concerts.
Eden Park - pleading for a $100m rescue package from council - would remain the home of rugby and big cricket matches until the city fathers decide whether to build a downtown stadium.
Buckley's spat with Town stems from a memorandum of understanding both men signed in June last year giving Buckley's Springs Promotions Ltd (SPL) exclusive rights to negotiate moving speedway to Colin Dale Park.
A vote by councillors in November to defer the move upset Buckley, who wrote to Mayor Phil Goff threatening to stop funding the sport. A few weeks later, Town and Deputy Mayor Bill Cashmore came to see him "to agree to hang in there". Buckley said he had a second meeting with Town on January 23.
On February 5, Buckley wrote to Town saying he had offered to put $5m into an earlier proposal to move speedway to Mt Smart but that was rejected and the money was no longer on the table.
Buckley's letter said he would continue to fund the running of speedway in Auckland but any suggestion he would be "a multi-million dollar contributor to Colin Dale Park's infrastructure and construction is unfounded".
On February 19, Town wrote to Buckley informing him the council and RFA "intend to issue an 'Expression of Interest' to invite promoters and investors to bid for the ongoing running of speedway in Auckland together with third party investment".
Buckley said he felt shafted by Town after being asked to hang in there.
"He is the lowest of the lowest. I have never been kicked in the guts so hard. What this letter tells me is I have got no more rights," he told the "Weekend Herald".
The MOU expired on November 23.
Town said Buckley had expressed his frustrations at an historic lack of care for speedway by numerous councils over the past 20 years.
"We acknowledged his concerns and expressed our desire to ensure a positive outcome for the sport," said Town, saying Buckley accepted Western Springs had its limitations and supported the move to Colin Dale Park.
Town said the provision of an expression of interest process was discussed by the finance committee in November to ensure all promoters were given the opportunity to run speedway events in Auckland.
He said a decision on moving speedway was still on hold and will be discussed by the finance and performance committee in April.
"We certainly acknowledge Bill's concerns and frustrations over this matter and would actively encourage him to contact us should he now have fresh concerns which he would like to discuss with us," Town said.
• 2002-2019: Buckley's Spring Promotions Ltd(SPL) has contract to run speedway at Western Springs.
• June 8, 2018: Auckland Council signs Memorandum of Understanding with SPL giving it exclusive rights to negotiate moving speedway to Colin Dale Park.
• November 20: Council's finance and performance committee votes to defer moving speedway.
• November 23: MOU expires.
• November 26: Buckley writes to Mayor Phil Goff expressing disappointment at deferring the move and threatens to stop funding speedway.
• December 20: Council chief executive Stephen Town and deputy mayor Bill Cashmore meet Buckley and ask him to hang in there.
• January 23: Second meeting between Buckley and Town.
• February 5, 2019: Buckley writes to Town to say council should not expect millions of dollars from him to build infrastructure at Colin Dale Park.
• February 19: Town writes to Buckley to say council and Regional Facilities will be inviting promoters and investors to bid for ongoing running of speedway in Auckland.
• March 16: Buckley's contract expires at Western Springs.