Sale of Wakefield Park brightens racetrack’s future

Benalla Auto Club has sold Wakefield Park, but it isn’t to some faceless property developer...


UPDATE: The future of Wakefield Park Raceway is brighter after sale to current owner of Pheasant Wood Circuit, Steve Shelley.

Wakefield Park shut its doors in September last year following the Land and Environment Court’s ruling after noise complaints from locals.

Continued input from the Save Wakefield Park petition – the biggest in NSW government history – didn’t go unnoticed, and in 2023 it appears Wakefield’s luck will turn.

Far from springing up a new property development in the location, Shelley is looking to collaborate with surrounding communities to bring racecars back to Wakefield.

Local Liberal MP, Wendy Tuckerman, was credited with facilitating the sale to Shelley’s from previous owners, Benalla Auto Club – which also owns Winton Motor Raceway in Victoria.

“We are thrilled to have found a solution that will allow the reopening of Wakefield Park Raceway,” Tuckerman told Auto Action. “This is a win for the motorsport community, local businesses and the wider community”, she added.

New owner Shelley has not outlined plans for Wakefield Park yet, but stakeholders are confident that regular race meetings and track days will return following the sale.

Owners of the Pheasant Wood Circuit issued a statement noting the concerns of local residents.

“The acquisition of Wakefield Park Raceway by an established track operator in the region, such as Pheasant Wood Circuit, will breathe new life into the raceway and provide a sustainable and commercially viable solution to the noise concerns that led to its closure.”

Shelley currently owns Pheasant Wood Circuit, which is located just 25 minutes down the Hume from Wakefield. It’s a tight and technical track with lower top speeds than Wakefield Park and less run-off area.

In 2022, Shelley purchased land surrounding Pheasant Wood with plans to extend the circuit from its current 1.4km length to 3.6km, with the eventual goal of producing a 7.9km layout – longer even than that of The Bend’s full layout.

Development of the 3.6km circuit was planned to begin in April last year, but as it stands Pheasant Wood’s 1.4km layout remains the only tarmac circuit at the current location.

Our original story, below, continues unchanged

John Law

The story to here

UPDATE August 20, 2022: The end for Wakefield Park?

Benalla Auto Club Vice President Bruce Robertson has told Auto Action that the embattled facility will close its doors 1 September, until a solution can be found.

“At this point in time there is no immediate solution to the problems brought on us by the Land and Environmental Court, there is nothing more we can do legally.

“We cannot operate. No one can operate a business or recreational facility on 4 days a month. It can’t be done.

“This decision can’t be appealed, as there was no error in law, so the state government has to find a path forward with other legislative instruments …They have to intervene for this to get anywhere, and that’s the only avenue forward.”

Simon Telford

The story to here

July 15: Wakefield Park owner doing all it can to stay open

The owner of Goulburn’s Wakefield Park circuit is “exploring all options” to keep the race track alive after stringent noise-limiting rules were announced yesterday.

A long-running legal battle between the circuit owner, the Benalla Auto Club (BAC), and the Goulburn Mulwaree Council has culminated in the New South Wales Land and Environment Court (LEC) introducing harsh noise restrictions for the venue, essentially limiting its operations to just four days per month.

In 2021, the BAC had submitted a development application (DA) for upgrades to the facility, including a multi-storey pit facility, corporate spaces, and modernised work spaces, all of which were approved by the LEC on the condition of Wakefield Park adhering to the noise limits.

The BAC has since released a statement saying the future of Wakefield Park is now uncertain while it vows to keep the venue afloat.

“The viability of Wakefield Park as a motorsport facility is uncertain following a NSW Land and Environment Court ruling handed down on July 13, 2022,” said the BAC.

“Wakefield Park’s owner, the Benalla Auto Club, undertook LEC proceedings in relation to a new development consent for the facility that was issued by Goulburn Mulwaree Council on July 13, 2021.

“That consent was subject to numerous unworkable conditions. During the proceedings, the Council proposed further and more stringent conditions. 

“While Wakefield Park’s appeal [for the development work] was upheld by the LEC, the LEC largely adopted the Council’s proposed conditions. These severely restrict the number of days per year that the circuit can operate at various noise thresholds. Their effect will make it impossible to operate as a sustainable business.”

The LEC’s limit of four events per month extends to non-motorsport meetings, such as track days and defensive driving courses, with the Wednesday night ruling ensuring a track day held at Wakefield Park yesterday counts for one of the few days of operation.

“From July 13, use of Wakefield Park for more than four events per month would constitute commencement of the new consent and require surrender of the facility’s existing consent,” the BAC continued.

“Wakefield Park will therefore reduce its operations to no more than four events per month until an alternative pathway is determined.

“The LEC decision is a shattering blow to the BAC, which submitted the DA [development application] with an intention of upgrading and improving Wakefield Park’s facilities.

“Wakefield Park’s existence as one of only two permanent motorsport facilities in NSW is now in jeopardy.

“Nevertheless, the BAC recognises the importance of Wakefield Park not only to the local economy, but to the wider motorsport and automotive industries. It remains committed to exploring all options with every level of government to preserve the facility.”

Initial reaction to the announcement was comprised of anger and disbelief within the Australian motorsports community, with many having to cancel upcoming accomodation reservations in nearby Goulburn as the BAC temporarily halts activities at the circuit.

The economic impact of Wakefield Park on the Goulburn/Mulwaree region is estimated at around $17 million per annum, with $9.79m coming from direct output and $7.27m indirectly, although the new limitations could lead to a 42 per cent reduction in direct expenditure for the region over a three-year period.

As it stands, Sydney Motorsport Park is the only other existing major race track in New South Wales, while far western Sydney’s Luddenham Raceway and Marulan’s Pheasant Wood Circuit still offer track days.