Written by Pete McNae
There was no hiding from the fact that the summer just past was a tough one for the Nelson Speedway Association. The club’s 50th anniversary season was largely overshadowed by ongoing issues with its resource consent — a document originally drafted in 1968 — and the spinoffs from those issues. Membership was down, impacting revenue (although the bottom line still showed a small profit) but most damningly, morale was low in the pits, clubrooms and on the terraces.
But it’s time to turn that around says Nelson Speedway Association president Wayne Martin, who was returned to the role unopposed at last night’s Annual General Meeting, his second year in his second term in the wide chair.
Martin’s president’s report, a separate letter he drafted for the AGM and general discussion openly acknowledged the difficulties of the past couple of seasons but there’s a feeling the club has hit the bottom of the cycle and is working to arrest and reverse the slide. “Culture” and “connections” might sound like phrases from some corporate shiny bum’s management manual but they seem to be key to Martin’s plan to drag the sport out of its doldrums.
He spoke of the apparent divisions in the club last summer and how member morale had been affected. Around 150 members chose not to renew their membership for last season, most likely in response to the $100 one-off levy imposed to build a fighting fund for the coming legal battle. Among those who opted not to pay the levy were some of the club’s life members — Martin said that was disappointing but that was last summer, the focus was now on looking forward.
He will move forward with a largely unchanged management team. Among those returned unopposed were vice president Kevin Freeman, secretary Karen Mclauchlan, assistant secretary Steph Atkinson and treasurer Cara Rangi. Patron Jack Mclauchlan retains the position, also unopposed. Club officials entitled to an honorarium refused to take the sum of money, returning it to the club accounts. There will be a new club captain, with Kirsten Lineham returning to the position ahead of two other nominees while voting scrutineers Mandy Carter, Dave Leitch and Blake Hearne had a tougher job tallying the committee votes with Justin Hearne, Jeff Mills and Wayne Russ coming onboard for 2019-20.
Unsurprisingly, last night’s meeting was less well-attended and less controversial than the previous one but the resource consent progress remained the key focus. After deciding not to appeal — at significant cost — an earlier council ruling, club members charged with sorting out a 50-year-old document with a number of leaks have continued to pursue a variation to the current consent. Much of the groundwork has been done, the club has expensive noise and traffic management plans in place and the money gathered through the levy and other donations remains “ring fenced” for a council hearing. The restrictions the association must currently meet were seen most vividly last summer when the Westmeats New Zealand Superstock Grand Prix was pared back to a one-night meeting, costing the club a good spectator gate, and the Nelson Automotive Solutions Easter meeting, was also cut to a single day. There is no doubt potential entrants also stayed away from those meetings, given they had become single-day affairs.
Martin said the club was comfortable with a 15-meeting calendar and had a “win” with the racing dates allowed between October and the end of April but, with good relations with neighbours vital, they will continue to strive for a consent that works for all concerned. There is no date set for a hearing but there seemed to be a determination not to let the dark shadows cast by the consent ruin a third season.
He also addressed the difficulties the promotion had faced with “blue ribbon” classes unable to form the backbone of regular promotions. The Tigers superstock team and Thunder stockcar team each fell over last summer, a huge blow to the culture of a club with a strong history in the collision classes. A big superstock meeting planned for November is building momentum while there are talks beginning around more teams racing for the Thunder in particular. The Superstock GP, South Island sidecars (after a rainoff), fireworks and derby meetings performed well, other promotions including the national TQ midget grand prix did not and Martin said the promotions team needed to ensure this summer’s meetings became ones spectators “couldn’t say no to”.
Another area of concern has been the on and off track behaviours surrounding the youth ministock class with a disproportionate amount of club time, energy and goodwill consumed by the class. In light of that, the youth membership fee was lifted to $50, unopposed.
Speedway New Zealand citations were awarded to Sam Satherley and Brendan Higgins for their hours spent in track preparation at the Milestone Homes-backed track while Martin was keen to acknowledge all volunteers, in particular Michelle Blackbourn’s work with the shop, John Everett and Greg Anderson for their efforts in maintaining track machinery and longtime committee member Allistair Thomas, who seems to be summoned over the PA system to repair items at least three times most meetings.
In closing the meeting at 9.20pm, Martin reinforced the tone and the club’s intent for the new season.
“I’d be the first to put my hand up and say I didn’t always have my eye on the ball last year because of what has been lurking in the background,” he said. “Things like that have divided us, which is just what the people who want to see speedway in Nelson shut down would want.
“But we can’t let that happen and I don’t want to let those outside issues drag us further down. It would be great to see us all back doing what we do best, racing with our mates and putting Nelson speedway back where it belongs.”