Baypark Speedway is continuing to work closely with stakeholders to get the 2021-22 racing season underway.The latest plan is open the doors to race fans and wave the green flag on the 20th anniversary celebration racing season on Saturday December 4.
The Covid-19 alert levels, border restrictions and requirements around gatherings and catering have been constantly changing with a new set of “traffic light” or Covid Protection Framework requirements on the horizon.
Some tracks have opened with a range of Covid-19 protection measures in place and with varying interpretations of the guidelines. Each venue is physically different with a wide variety of permanent or temporary infrastructure that effect their ability to meet the Covid-19 protocols.
We caught up with Speedway NZ general manager Zoe Irons for a glimpse of the work happening daily behind the scenes.“Every track has a unique set of circumstances, and for Baypark it’s been difficult because the promotor is locked down in Auckland, our Speedway NZ chief steward has been locked down in Te Awamutu and the stadium itself has been used as a vaccination centre by the District Health Board,” says Zoe.
Zoe says a working group that has seen Speedway NZ play a key role alongside similar organisations such as Motorsport NZ, Motorcycling NZ, Kartsport NZ and the NZ Drag Racing Association has reinvigorated the efforts to seek clarifications and guidance from a variety of government agencies and to work with other similar groups. “For instance, I started working with Sport New Zealand on August 20th, three days into the lockdown, when I could foresee a major problem for Auckland in particular,” says Zoe. She says speedway has a unique set of challenges because it operates as a spectator sport while catering for a large number of competitors.
“Sport NZ has a lot of its focus on participation sports but speedway across New Zealand attracts high spectator attendances, so we also have a dialogue with the NZ Events Association,” says Zoe. “Speedway really falls closer to the events category but we are different to many major events because our sport operates with the help of a large number of volunteers.”
Zoe says one key piece of clarification Speedway NZ is awaiting under the upcoming “traffic light” system is any requirement for the vaccination of volunteers.
“We don’t have that yet. We have about 400 volunteer officials at Speedway NZ and there is probably a similar number who volunteer their time to the clubs and promoters. If we lost 10 per cent of them, it would be a lot more difficult to operate.“As far as how the “traffic light” system or Covid Protection Framework will work for a sport like ours, at the moment we have more questions than answers.”
“Events like speedway are an outlet people need at this time and we want to see as many tracks as possible operating safely and within the Covid-19 requirements at the time.”