Tim Gregory’s opinion on the future of the ITM 500



While I understand Auckland’s event andTim Tourism arm ATEED now financially underwrite the ITM 500 and prefer to take its ancillary events into the CBD, there does appear to be a profound lack of foresight within segments of the local media and business associations which ultimately leads to the Franklin region – and in particular Pukekohe – missing out on a prime opportunity to promote itself as a vibrant area.

Personally I found the lack of support from local business for this year’s event to be quite perplexing.
This was highlighted by the amount of times that I heard comments such as ‘You wouldn’t even know the V8s were on this year’ from both locals and tourists in direct reference to Pukekohe’s overall effort to embrace one of New Zealand’s highest attended sporting events being held in their own backyard. So what is the solution? Has the township become disenchanted with the event? Did the change back to a November date have an effect? Whatever the case is, as a proud resident of Franklin, I believe that we could have left a much better impression.
Let’s borrow Doc Emmett Browns DeLorean for a fleeting moment and travel back to 2001 – the first year in which the V8 Supercar circus arrived into Franklin. It was pandemonium.
The hype was built up methodically through smart local promotion.
There were concerts at the Stadium, Ford and Holden parades, every bar, club, restaurant and motel had the full house sign up. Pukekohe was then regarded as one of the hot spots of the V8 calendar. Arrive back in 2015 and despite over 116,554 race fans strolling through the turnstiles over the three days (up around 25 percent on the inaugural attendance figures) yet the Pukekohe CBD could have been mistaken for modern day Chernobyl.
There was a noticeable lack of shop front displays. Further adding to the dispassionate vibe, one local newspaper that arrived in my mailbox the day before the V8s only ran a pocket sized copy paste article from its parent company, this was grafted in deep into the bowels of its back pages and seemed to be nothing more then an after thought. Another thing that also needs to be addressed is education on the weekend in terms of its impact on residents everyday habits.
Having talked at length to several retailers along Manukau Road, they will all tell you that V8 weekend has a negative effect on their trade patterns.
There is an idea that there will be no car parks available in Pukekohe.
Apart from the very start and end of each day when traffic is at its peak this couldn’t be further from the truth.
If we are to benefit economically from the spike in visitor nights then we must be more enthusiastic as hosts. From what I am hearing around Motorsport circles, the V8s at Pukekohe are once again on borrowed time. Scottish Pet Food Mogul Tony Quinn recently acquired the Hampton Downs circuit and has begun pouring millions of dollars into the modern facility. It is understood
that the sports CEO James Warburton is currently in high level discussions for a move half an hour down the motorway and back into the Waikato from 2017.
So the golden goose may only lay its egg one last time here in Franklin.
There is no replacement event that will ever bring as many people into the region. We need to take more ownership. Let’s make sure we lift the standard together and go out on a bang rather then a whimper.

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