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My Reasons for Opposing V8 Supercar races at Sydney Olympic Park – Dr Gordon Moyes

Dr Gordon Moyes, a member of the NSW Legislative Council describes the environmental, social and economic harm that will result if the NSW Government proceeds with its plan to convert the Sydney Olympic Park into a V8 Racing area against the wishes of local residents. Nathan Rees, the Premier of NSW, who has a personal fetish for the ecologically destructive sport of motor racing, is also threatening to impose the World Rally motor race on the Kyogle and Tweed Shires, also against the wishes of local residents.

See also: "Repco Rally... driven by Rees' selfish 'Red Hot Go!'" of 18 May 09.

The Sydney Olympic Park is a wonderful development of which the citizens of Sydney and the whole state are justly proud. It is a jewel in the New South Wales crown, and it took a lot of time and tax dollars, very careful design for the creation of a green and sustainable site, and effective implementation to bring to life the dream of so many.

Now it is thoroughly established and thriving, a masterpiece of excellent planning, enjoyed by over 8 ½ million users annually, as a place to take one's family for picnics, for jogging and walking, exploring the historical sites, attending various cultural events, an excellent facility for bird watching, riding bicycles, and other healthy activities – the kind of activities we have health promotion campaigns to convince people to participate in – and they have responded whole heartedly and taken up these activities at the Sydney Olympic Park. The people of Sydney and New South Wales love their Sydney Olympic Park, and make excellent use of it.

Changing the essential character of the Sydney Olympic Park by converting it into a V8 Racing area is not just a local issue; it is an international one, which may surprise you. Let me explain: Australia has trade treaties with many nations in Asia who are in danger of over-developing every single metre of natural space within their borders, even those wetland areas that have been used for millennia for annual migratory purposes by the species of migratory birds that live in all our nations.

Most bird species are seasonal in their habits, and spend the winter in the warmer climes and the summers in the cooler ones. They are trans-national citizens, seeing the stretch from Australia up the flyway to Korea and Japan as their home. They deserve acknowledgement from us, and access to their habitats. If not they will die – because this land is where they rest, feed, raise their young, and prepare to return north when it is time. If this parkland is destroyed or made uninhabitable by pollution or noise, they have nowhere else to go to perform the basic activities of life. In Asia it is reported that many birds simply drop dead from the sky, starved and exhausted while trying to fly farther in the search for appropriate sites when theirs have been built over.

To prevent this terrible scenario from coming about here, Australia has entered into Trade Agreements with these Asian nations, with all signatories agreeing to protect the environments of the migratory birds that use their areas. Such agreements include provisions that expressly state that the Government shall "seek means to prevent damage to such birds and their environment". Well these are those birds, and this is their environment here at the Sydney Olympic Park.

We owe it to the nations to which we pledged this, to the people who live there, and to the birds themselves, not to destroy this place for any reason. To breach those agreements would be very bad form, internationally, and would give the other nations carte blanche to, in turn, do the same. We have to do the right thing, not only because it is right but because of our responsibility to meet and model the highest standards of international citizenship regarding such treaties. So, you see, it is an international environmental issue. Pointing out that fact should be enough to change the nature of this debate, but it may not, so I shall point out several other drawbacks of the plan to convert the Sydney Olympic Park into a raceway.

There are so many other environmental reasons, in addition to the migratory bird treaties, that on the environmental basis alone it should never even have been considered. The removal of hundreds of beloved and beautiful trees is a terrible thing – every tree in the urban environment is a blessing, and each one works hard to filter our pollution-filled city air of car exhaust and industrial fumes, making the air breathable, making the city liveable. The preliminary estimate of trees destined to be destroyed to make way for concrete barriers and racing roadways is in the many hundreds. Let us think about this for a moment: trees are the precious home and habitat for birds and creatures, and a soothing, welcoming, lovely landscape for the people who live in and visit the area.

With so many absolutely barren places in this brown land why would we even consider the destruction of a beautifully treed area that is called a Green Precinct? Race organisers' promises to replace the trees later mean nothing. A living tree now is worth more than all those promises of future activity that may or may not be honoured. The air filtering which provides a healthy atmosphere, the shade, habitat, beauty and pleasure they provide now is needed and desired by the affected animals and humans alike, on an ongoing basis, more than ever. Trees are not to be treated so lightly, they should not be so easily expendable. This is genuinely a significant quality-of-life issue for the surrounding population.

Besides the 140 species of birds living in the Sydney Olympic Park area, many of which are considered threatened or endangered, there are endangered frogs and plant species. Worldwide the health of frogs is used as an ecological indicator of environmental health, and these creatures are already under threat from human activities. That they have found some refuge and are able to live in this area attests to its success as a green and sustainable environment. Destruction of their habitat, the Sydney Olympic Park, will only be exponentially worse for them. All of them are under further threat from this proposed Bill.

The State and Federal Governments have a plan in effect until the year 2010 to protect the habitat of the Green and Golden Bellfrog. The Frog is listed as a vulnerable species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999; also listed as endangered under Schedule 1 of the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act. These frogs breed mostly in the brickpit, but the runoff from the proposed racecar pit area – which is slated to be located next to the brickpit – will potentially damage this environment with ethanol, oil and gasoline waste. No technology exists which can prevent that entirely, despite assurances from organisers that environmental socks will be placed to soak up these wastes.

Speaking of animals, there are also many hundreds of companion cats, dogs and birds living in the homes in this area. Such creatures are exquisitely sensitive to noise and many are terrified by loud screeching, careening and unpredictable noises. It will be very harmful for them to be bombarded with the high decibels expected. Reacting in alarm to it the pets may try to escape, injure themselves in the process, be hit by cars or lost, or even just fly into the walls in terror. But even if they stay safely indoors they will still be at the mercy of the noise, which will be perceived as threatening. Such noise permeates and penetrates residential walls as if they were not there. This kind of noise should be isolated – away from population centres.

The inevitable spillage of oil, petrol and other wastes that will seep into the ground or down the gutters will make its way into the Recycled Water Plant causing problems that may potentially cost the taxpayers millions of dollars to fix. This pollution of water is unconscionable in our drought-affected state!

The air pollution generated from the use of ethanol is unhealthy for people living in close proximity to the track. In this era of climate change, in response to the deadly global threat of increasing greenhouse gases, it would be far more sensible to discourage all human activities that produce massive amounts of pollution. Motor racing should go the way of the Roman gladiatorial games, as belonging to another age, one that we look back upon and shake our heads in wonder and dismay.

Excessive noise pollution will be imposed on the population – upwards of 95 decibels from 300 cars for 3 days as well as the 1200 odd semi-trailer movements in and out of the park to set up and dismantle the track. Exposure to excess noise is known to raise the heart rate and blood pressure and contribute to anxiety; it should not be inflicted on populations as if it is of no importance. Earplugs from the chemist are of no use in such situations.

There are additional concerns reported to me in letters from other people, such as the issue of problem driving and street racing. Our city and suburban streets are already deadly to the innocent drivers killed regularly by uncontrolled and apparently uncontrollable car racers. But instead of discouraging racing we turn around and set up an activity that will lionise racers – do we really want to inspire more of them? The answer from the public is a resounding "NO".

There are also aesthetic reasons when you consider that seven kilometres of concrete barriers and fencing are to be erected every year (and then dismantled, as they are to be there temporarily). However in other states that were promised the same thing the concrete barriers were eventually made into permanent fixtures since it was too expensive and too much trouble for race organisers to bring them in and remove them every year. Those guarantees had been in writing stating that this would never occur – but it did. The same empty promises could be entered into here.

There are also all the prudent economic arguments that many of my constituents have pointed out. The expenditure of up to $30 million on any activity with no guaranteed economic return at an unprecedented time of international monetary meltdown, when the state hospitals are desperate for money – women in labour being turned away from understaffed hospitals, education suffering, the Sydney transport infrastructure creaking under the weight of an expanding population, unemployment on the rise and public servants (police, fire fighters, nurses, teachers and ambulance officers) refused real wage increases – this is not good stewardship of the taxpayers' resources entrusted into our hands.

It doesn't make sense on any level, particularly the economic. The history of the V8 Supercar Race in other states has been abysmal, leading to large losses by taxpayers over the years – just ask the people in Victoria about their experience with Albert Park.

Assurances that there would be a "cap" of government contributions at $30 million do not take into consideration the other costs, and there are many – such as provision of security services, the major advertising campaigns attracting people to the event, infrastructure upheaval such as re-siting over 100 light poles and the electrical cables for street lighting and domestic supply, as well as the removal and re-placement of bus shelters.

The people who write to me are appalled at the way their concerns are being ignored and belittled by both the Premier and the Minister for State Development, Ian MacDonald. Their quiet neighbourhoods are being threatened with an inundation of unbearable motor noise, road chaos, crowds and the usual antisocial behaviours that accompany such spectacles especially when there is alcohol.

Up to 10 weeks of the year there will be limited or no use of the park by the citizenry who have incorporated it into their daily lives – six weeks before the event to set it up and four weeks afterwards to pull it all back down.

Residents are also concerned that they will not be able to park outside their homes when the crowds pour in, and that the Olympic Park Station will not be able to cater for the influx of estimated 100,000 people at the race – the station is too small and not enough trains run in and out of there. If buses are to be provided they will be yet another cost to the taxpayers. There has also been no indication from the government whether buses will provide regular commuters a vital link to Parramatta and Strathfield/Burwood Stations during the event.

Others are very concerned that property values will decline sharply in surrounding suburbs if this goes ahead because most people do not want to live next to a racetrack. Residents want to know if they will be compensated for this fall in value?

And it was actually suggested to them by the Minister that if they didn't like it they could just rent their place out during that time and leave the area like many people in Queensland apparently do! At least he was admitting that people do want to get away from these events, if they can manage it. But that ease of mobility is just not how most people's lives work. This is not an attitude respectful of the lives of people and their families in these areas. This is not social justice. There has been no public consultation and the residents have a right to know all the details, and the right to be heard when they say they don't want it.

The Sydney Olympic Park Authority Act has strong environmental protection measures that will require special legislation to be enacted to bypass it and allow the race to proceed. The Sydney Olympic Park Authority (SOPA) has already voted on the issue, and rejected unanimously the idea for this race happening there, but their stance has been ignored. How can this happen? They are the authority responsible for managing and maintaining the Park as a lasting legacy for the people of New South Wales, and this decision that will devastate the Park is being completely taken out of their hands.

The Local Councils around the Sydney Olympic Park, those of Parramatta, Strathfield, Auburn and Ryde have also whole-heartedly opposed the plan.

My understanding of the very basic, foundational premise of the concept of democracy is that the people get a voice both directly and through their elected representatives, in what happens to them, to their tax dollars, and to their environment, as well as the actions taken by their leaders. Is that what we are observing here? To me what we are seeing sounds more like this definition of bullying: "To force one's own way aggressively or by intimidation without regard to the feelings of the person or people on the receiving end."

My constituents are NOT against V8 Racing nor am I, although I must admit that I have never seen the appeal – my constituents are just against holding it at Sydney Olympic Park especially when there is a purpose built track for this at Eastern Creek International Raceway, where the population density is much less.

I believe that the Eastern Creek site is far preferable for this event for a number of reasons. It is an excellent facility that is already owned by the Government, so that any monies spent will be an investment – improving a facility already owned by the people. It is a specialised motor racing area already booked throughout the year by commercial organisations, trade shows, driver training, etc. It operates at a profit, and the accumulated surpluses are enough to contribute to the funding for the desired re-surfacing of the track. There is easy vehicle access from both the M4 freeway straight into the car park, and from Wallgrove Road. Having this site will enable a variety of motor races in different configurations without any set up or dismantling costs involved, and lastly it inconveniences a much smaller number of residents.

I will not support any plan or Bill that allows V8 Supercar Racing at Sydney Olympic Park and I will encourage all other MPs who have a social conscience to also refuse to support it.

Rev Hon Dr Gordon Moyes AC MLC
Research Officer: Leslie McCawley BS MPH