Councils urged to support venue

The region's councils will be urged to allow the establishment of Kohatu Park, a major regional motorsport and adventure venue, in their Long Term Plans.

Those driving the $26-million venture plan to make submissions to the two councils' 10-year plans next month.

"In my mind it would be remiss of councillors not to be looking that far ahead," said Garry Adcock. "We've got to look past my lifetime to my grandchildren's. Will speedway still operate then at the bottom of Queen St when there is urban growth? It's just going to be trouble."

The New Zealand Central Motorsport and Adventure Park, now branded as Kohatu Park, has gained resource consent following appeals and its organisers have formed an incorporated society as a supporters' club, and a trust and are applying for charitable trust status as they gear up for major fundraising.

They had planned to hold their first public open day at the site near Tapawera yesterday but it was cancelled after forestry and fire representatives deemed it to be an extreme fire risk. Ironically, it then rained.

As an alternative, the society held a display at the Kohatu Flat Rock Cafe yesterday where its board members talked about the project. They plan to hold an open day when the fire risk levels have reduced.

"We are at the stage of trying to gauge and prove the demand," said Adcock. Feedback showed there was a lot of demand but they wanted people to join the incorporated society to prove that, he said.

They are halfway to a target of 1000 members, with supportive businesses offering discount vouchers as an incentive to join.

The organisation's major users include the Nelson Motorcycle Club, Nelson Car Club, Nelson Drag Racing Association and Nelson Offroaders. It also has many other entities such as car clubs.

Half the park is designed for adventure sports, with possibilities including downhill mountain biking, a luge, air soft sports, trolley and high-wire activities. "Stuff that does not fit on Saxton Field," said Adcock.

The funding for the facilities is to come from the clubs' fundraising as well as the trust raising money.

"We need to get the councils to at least acknowledge the park and lock it into their Long Term Plans for the next 10 years," said Adcock.

That would then provide some surety for the groups and the trust could go to major funders such as lottery grants, said Adcock.

They were also exploring the possibility of engaging professional fundraisers. "We have plenty of options for the funding, but you have to lay the foundations first," he said.

Adcock said an economic report showed that the total benefit to the region would be $89m in the first five years and the equivalent of 38 full-time jobs.

"We are still looking at around $26 million in total to build the park but that does not all have to happen at once."

While in Cromwell the Highland Motorsports Park with a racing circuit had been built in a year, Kohatu Park was a community affair. "We're taking a bit more time to do it, and at a lower cost. It might start with a smaller track which can be extended."

It had several consent conditions to comply with, such as roading and fire breaks to put in place. The first activities on site are expected to be dirt sports such as motocross and offroading. "A lot of our members work in civil construction and are dying to get up there and start making tracks."

- The Nelson Mail