Newcastle and the Hunter needs its own purpose built Motor Racing Venue …
A purpose built venue is the only way to ensure motor racing enthusiasts have access to quality motor sports all year round.
The building of a Hunter Motor Racing venue would be the best outcome for Upper and Lower Hunter racing fans. It would ensure that racing events could be held year-round in a safe environment with all appropriate facilities.
Newcastle City is not and never has been the hub of Hunter motor sport. Traditionally, the highest support for racing comes from the Central Hunter region.
The cost of staging the event in the city is by far higher than constructing a purpose-built track in the Hunter that could be used year-round for associated events. The people of Newcastle are paying twice…once as rate-payers and again as tax-payers for an event that delivers somewhat dubious economic and social benefits. We have seen the chaos that transpires when the event contract is terminated prematurely as was the case in Homebush and Canberra. We would prefer that the Newcastle event was more carefully considered and more due diligence applied, to ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.
By relocating the Supercar event to a purpose-built track there would be benefits all round. Visitors and race patrons would still seek accommodation in the city and surrounds. Cafes, restaurants, hotels and bars would be freely accessible to all…all of the time. In an appealing tourism package, the East End would be an attractive additional destination for the proposed influx of visitors, along with the vineyards, Honeysuckle, Darby and Beaumont Streets, Maitland, Morpeth and Port Stephens.
All this is possible without closing down one of the most highly utilised parts of our city. Racing events could be held throughout the year, bringing revenue to the region on a long-term basis.
An enormous amount of money is being spent to stage this temporary event. Cars.com estimates the cost of staging the 2017 Newcastle 500 race will be $45 million. NCC have admitted that works brought forward to stage the event will cost at least $8.8 million. Those works will be at the expense of more urgent work that was originally scheduled for other parts of the city. These Supercars works will only benefit the streets that comprise the circuit. A road through Nobbys Reserve (this is supposed to be a street circuit) will be returned to parkland each year at huge cost. Destination NSW admit to providing $11 million. Those figures seem remarkably low for the amount of infrastructure required to make Newcastle East fit their pre-conceived plan. There has not been any Business Plan or Cost /Benefit Analysis displayed publically. The money should be used to provide a purpose-built racing track in the Newcastle/Hunter region. That way the benefits could actually outweigh the costs.
There have been a number of claims that the event will be of a considerable financial benefit to the city of Newcastle. A review of the health and economic effects of large sporting events published in the British Medical Journal concluded that without robust long term evaluations of these events claims of benefits are spurious.
(McCartney, G., Thomas, S., Thomson, H., Scott, J., Hamilton, V., Hanlon, P., Morrison, D.S. and Bond, L., 2010. The health and socioeconomic impacts of major multi-sport events: systematic review (1978-2008). BMJ, 340, p.c2369.)
The City Centre of Newcastle has only a small quantity of accommodation and an even smaller volume of accommodation that is surplus to the normal requirements.
Occupancy rates are very high so the Supercar event will be of very small net benefit. Those promoting the event need to consider the economic disruption caused by the displacement of the normal accommodation users.
The event package is promoting Charlestown (Lake Macquarie LGA) as the accommodation location. Travel is ex Sydney Airport with daily coach travel to the track. How will this benefit Newcastle? If Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Port Stephens, Cessnock and others are to be major beneficiaries then why are they not also sharing the costs and contributing cash and kind to support the event?
To provide protection for hearing and health risks, damage prevention or repairs to heritage homes, repatriation of parks and heritage features on streets, to move and ‘restore’ the monument in Parnell Place (erected in 1904) to make way for the race track, to reconstruct the streets in accordance with race regulations, to build permanent pit areas (by annexing a park), to comply with OHS regulations for residents (workers are already covered), will cost a great deal of Newcastle City Council money.
Time and again, the NSW Government has been required to provide further funds on top of those originally committed, to bolster this event in other cities. As taxpayers, we should demand that our money is better spent elsewhere.
Spectators attending the event will come from the Central Hunter and surrounds. They will drive their cars.
A percentage will travel from Sydney and they too will drive their cars.
Some very keen motorsport fans will travel long distances again mostly by car.
Newcastle airport does not have an efficient system of public transport for carrying visitors to Newcastle City Centre. Destinations NSW statistics show the train (now removed) delivered far more visitors to Newcastle City Centre than the airport.
Competitors and support people will travel either in cars or motorsport support vehicles.
The city will be closed to vehicles at Darby Street. Spectators will be shuttled from park-and-ride sites in outlying suburbs to the precinct.
Traffic beyond Darby Street will be congested and probably gridlocked.
Transport will be disrupted in three ways.
Firstly, the normal public and private transport activities will be seriously disrupted from Darby Street east. This disruption will range from nuisance value to severe economic disruption and a heavy financial cost. Businesses east of Darby Street will likely incur losses during the event and during pre-race setting up. This cost must be deducted from the economic benefit of the event.
Secondly, the movement of event infrastructure into the very small and already extremely congested peninsula area via a transport network designed for light vehicles with no rail access and no waterfront infrastructure will prove very difficult, highly disruptive and a huge economic burden.
Thirdly, the absence of a physical or viable transport system capable moving an event crowd into and out of the venue is sure to cause a high level of patron dissatisfaction, greatly upset the residents and normal visitors to the area, and disruption of normal economic activity. This will seriously detract from crowd attendance in subsequent years. Attempts to address this issue will be extremely expensive and seriously undermine the events viability.
The light rail project will also disrupt the event and the transport effort when construction begins. (There will be a further issue when the light rail line and the circuit intersect.)
Hamilton Station will be of little transport benefit as the station is not close to the venue and is remote from the origin of most event patrons. Bus congestion will be a problem if extra buses are engaged to transport patrons into the city.
The transport issues are all readily resolvable by relocating the track to a location that is by transport measures, high quality, low cost, very efficient and non-disruptive.
Spectators who have a poor experience will simply vote with their feet. This will harm the prospect of subsequent events but also harm other locations and other motorsport events.
Supercars are struggling financially as costs blow out, revenue and sponsorship and attendance continues to fall. Some observers question the ability of Supercars to survive the year.
Spectators want a high visibility track that is wide, provides lots of passing opportunities and minimises race stoppages. Spectators also like to be able to readily walk to other parts of the circuit during their day’s attendance in order to change vantage points, acquire food and drink and to engage in track side entertainment.
The narrow hidden track of Newcastle East is likely to offer poor quality racing for competitors and spectators. There will be many slow corners. Television coverage will be a better option for viewing the race.
The Newcastle East track will certainly not be conducive to a viable long-term event.