Another pending motorsports facility in Australia has been placed in the ‘too hard’ basket for good, with plans for the Shoalhaven Motorsport Complex officially abandoned.
Motorcycling NSW – a not-for-profit organisation – made the difficult decision after seven years of non-stop applications, lobbying, thousands of dollars and general hard work.
Why? Because of some plants.
A particularly rare species of orchid – the Leafless Tongue Orchid – has been spotted around the proposed location for the facility at Yerriyong near Nowra, New South Wales.
As a protected species, the cost and logistics of relocating the orchids would quickly overwhelm the club, which has had no choice but to deem the project unfeasible.
Alan Stephenson – a self-taught plant enthusiast – made the discovery as part of a personal crusade to protect the rare plants.
For his trouble, Mr Stephenson reportedly said he has received death threats, and the rare orchid has since become the butt of jokes for frustrated Shoalhaven locals hoping to see the development (or just development of any kind) go ahead.
Stephenson told a local newspaper the ‘law was to blame, not him’, and that the environmental impact report for the proposed development was not compiled properly.
Officially, the plant is classed as “vulnerable”, but Mr Stephenson claims the plant’s population in Yerriyong (around 100 plants found) is significant. The report found only 22 plants in the area.
For the people of the Shoalhaven, the cancelled project is another blow to a region with one of the highest unemployment rates in the state (almost nine percent) and with a youth unemployment rate around 21 percent.
“This is a sad announcement for us, as it means the end of plans for a badly-needed new road racing facility in NSW,” Motorcycling NSW said in a statement.
“[The decision] will also mean many of the plans we had for the existing motocross facility at Yerriyong will also not go ahead, as they were dependent on the joint facility coming to fruition.”
Previously, a critical upgrade to the Princes Highway in the same area was delayed due to the apparent discovery of two rare frog species – and a costly ($1 million) collection of ‘frog hotels’ was added before the development was allowed to proceed.
The cancelled project is also a blow to NSW, which currently has just two recognised motorsport facilities (Sydney Motorsport Park and Wakefield Park) and a handful of smaller ‘track’ facilities unsuitable for motorsport (such as Marulan and Sutton driver training facilities).
Hopes for a third NSW track now lie with the CASAR Park facility on the NSW Central Coast, but like the Shoalhaven project, CASAR is a long way from seeing shovels in the ground.
While Mount Panorama in Bathurst is also up to top-level motorsport standards, the circuit is – and always has been – a public road course closed only occasionally for use as a race track.
Bathurst Regional Council and the NSW Government have pushed for a new, permanent track at Mount Panorama to enable the area to host more motorsport events throughout the year.
The track could encompass the existing Pit Straight and pit facilities, but avoid the ascent and decent of ‘The Mountain’ in favour of a flatter circuit cutting through the paddock behind the pits.
Also, a brand new facility has been mooted to the west of the current Mt Panorama roadway with links allowing for up to nine different circuit layouts. This western option would not require the closure of the public roadway to host events, but would require new pit, race control and parking facilities.
Design submissions are being sought now, and it’s hoped the facility will be suitable for both car and bike racing.
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