IN THE ZONE: Concerns have been raised about the health impact of noise levels on city residents living near the Newcastle 500 Supercars circuit.
Is it OK that 150,000 people are to be exposed to noise levels greater than the SafeWork NSW exposure standard of 85 dBA over eight hours, or its equivalent, over the duration of the Newcastle 500 Supercars motor races?
More than 70 concerned doctors have warned of the significant health effects to people and the health costs likely to occur due to the conduct of the motor races. People in the race zone come from across our community. Many live and work along the length of the circuit.
The choice of the East End of Newcastle for a motor sports event is unprecedented. Historic terraces, aged-care facilities, community housing, residences, and businesses line about 50 per cent of the racing circuit.
Most are within a couple of blocks of the circuit, and more than 135 homes and businesses are less than 5 metres from it.
In a breath-taking range of provisions,the EPA Act that controls environmental pollution and noise is over-ruled by the Motor Racing Act 2008. This means that a business (Supercars Australia), is able to breach the provisions of the EPA Act that are designed to protect people, communities, and businesses against noise levels that are unacceptable for 365 days a year under all other jurisdictions.
Not only is the EPA Act sidelined, but other standard planning procedures have been ignored. The normal process for such an event to proceed in a city requires a Development Application (DA) be submitted to council. A range of required checks and balances are enacted and tested for the DA to be approved, modified, or rejected.
Interestingly, the 2017 Amendment to the Motor Racing Act Sydney/Newcastle 2008 removed the requirement to create an independent authority to manage the event in Newcastle. In Sydney, the Homebush Motor Racing Authority (HMRA) was able to ensure that a thorough independent and authoritative report on the expected noise levels was conducted for that event.
The report used an accepted computer model to predict the noise levels and found that they met the levels set by the Confederation of Motor Racing Australia (CAMS), and also that they did not breach the safe levels set by SafeWork NSW.
However, in Sydney’s case,the nearest residence was more than 300 metres from the track. In Newcastle the reverse is true with many residences and businesses less than 10 metres from the track – the SafeWork NSW safe limits will be breached.
A level of community consultation is required by the Motor Racing Act. Many who have attended information sessions haveraised concerns aboutthe expected noise levels. At the time of writing, no independent authoritative report has been made public and a promised Noise Management Plan has not materialised.
So, what should happen to ensure a great motor racing event occurs that also protects the people and the amenity in the historic East End?
The answer is simple: move the event to a purpose-built racing circuit. There is a suitable one close to Newcastle – Circuit Italia. Circuit Italia has been approved under a standard Development Application and is designed to meet the requirements of CAMS. It is convenient to both Newcastle and the airport.
It would be awin-win for motor sports fans, East End residents, businesses and visitors, Destination NSW and Supercars.
It is not too late.
Dr Alex Spathis is a retired engineer and scientist who lives in Newcastle East.