The society of a country or city is built on the shoulders of those that have gone before.
It is called heritage or tradition, a legacy if you like. Heritage of buildings and places is important to every modern city.

Lose that and you lose the identity of the city.

The number of buildings, places and sites in Auckland officially recognised and included in the 'New Zealand Heritage List' is large with a multiplicity of churches and houses, historic edifices and structures that represent the foundations of the city like the former 'Auckland Timber Company Building', the former 'Auckland Gas Company and Workshops' and the 'Tea Kiosk' in Auckland Domain.

All worthy sites that reflect how this city, this country even, was developed, for without that heritage of the past, without that reminder of the fabric of the early years of a city's society, our city, any city, will turn into a bland, faceless and soulless conurbation.


Sport is also bound by tradition and heritage with even the world of Formula 1 embracing the traditional, the 'heritage', races and in doing so they recognise that without that on-going tradition the sport will lose it's base of fans and be the poorer for it.

There are few currently active sporting sites left in the world that have a heritage dating back to the 1920's and those that do, internationally, are proud to proclaim that fact and make much of it.

American cities have baseball stadiums that stretch that far back in time, and further, that are huge tourism attractions. Wimbledon tennis stadium, built in 1922, thrives on the heritage of the setting and international motorsport is no different with the oldest venues in the world proudly celebrating their centenaries, enthusiastically backed, financially and practically, by their local authorities and governments.

Yet here we are in New Zealand with a council in Auckland, continually hitting the rate payers for more money, increasing it's staff count and blowing out the salary budget and with millions spent on international travel - on the back of election promises not to increase the rates I might add – wanting to spend tens of millions of dollars to destroy one of the heritage icons of world motorsport, on both two and four wheels.

Make no mistake, the Western Springs Speedway is famous throughout the motorsport world and has, due to the persistence of the promoters, attracted some of the biggest names in the sport to appear and race at the venue. A venue that has seen true family entertainment for generations and in all the time I have attended the speedway I cannot remember one incident of unruly crowd behaviour or the police having to do anything more than a friendly word.

It is a venue for the families of Auckland attend.

Only those with no understanding of the importance, as in pure heritage, of 'The Springs' as a speedway would consider suggesting another venue. No other site in the Auckland area can compare nor would be suitable and then to factor in the cost of making another venue acceptable to the type of speedway raced at 'The Springs' and the whole suggested project borders on insanity.

This city, this council, should be capitalising on the fact that Western Springs still exists as a full international racing venue and make it into the icon it deserves to be, in it's own way as famous as Eden Park or the Sky Tower.


The arguments to make this jewel in the crown of the city into a cricket stadium – with seemingly little enthusiasm from New Zealand Cricket - with no history nor heritage, is flawed in so many ways, and ways that have been illustrated by greater minds than my own, but when Regional Facilities Auckland director of venue development strategy Paul Nisbet says "RFA believes the sport of speedway and the interests of ratepayers will be better served by bringing speedway together in a single regional facility," I shake my head in wonder.

How will the sport of speedway be better served by moving and how will the ratepayers be better off by spending millions, some estimates approaching $100 million, on this move? Did anybody actually ask those in the sport if they would be "better served"?

I have been attending, together with a large family unit, The Springs since the mid 1970s and I am certainly not going to say "it was better in the old days". The entertainment and the racing is as good now, or better, than it has ever been and is still one of the best family supported evenings out there is.

There has been an ongoing issue with noise control but, ignoring the oft repeated fact that every resident in the area moved to that area knowing there was an occasional noisy neighbour, that noise will likely increase with an increase of almost 70% of 'special noise events' under the RFA plan. So it cannot be the noise issue, that is historic and primarily dealt with.

Perhaps financially the council does not get enough return in money terms from the promoters of the Speedway. In that case have more race events, not less and allow the promoter to raise more funds by having other events to try and return to the council an equitable amount. I wonder how close neighbours Auckland Zoo and MOTAT fare in the 'Return on Investment' stakes.

Apart from the finacial absurdity of turning this quintissentially unique venue into an underutilised cricket ground, the council says that the venue would also be used for community rugby and for concerts and festivals. Surely that is happening now, with the speedway in place, and will not need to change.

As in all things to do with beaurocracy and inner city development I think of the phrase in the movie 'All The President's Men'. "Follow The Money" was the cry.

It does not take a Sherlock Holmes to think that, once the speedway has been ejected from Western Springs and the transformation to another sporting use has been finally rejected because of cost, that land will have enormous value to the council for housing.
Golf courses around the city have already fallen victim to this 'urbanisation', cloaked in the name of progress, and more open spaces are likely to follow.

If, or perhaps when, this dark cloud of left wing beurocracy descends on 'The Springs' and high density housing sprouts up, or even the new 'fashionistas' of Grey Lynn, there will be an increase in population (and income from the rates) with one less venue to entertain them. That sounds like progress doesn't it?

Amongst her many responsibilities the Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern is Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage. Heritage New Zealand, a Crown entity that advocates for the protection of ancestral sites and heritage buildings in New Zealand is affiliated to that Ministry.

I can't think of few, if any, worldwide celebrated sporting sites in New Zealand that would be worthy of heritage recognition as an operational motor sport venue, more that the Western Springs Speedway.

Perhaps the Mount Albert MP would care to have a word with her National MP close electorate neighbour Nikki Kaye, the Shadow Minister of Sport and Recreation and MP for Auckland Central (which includes Western Springs) about this.