Super circuit - Hampton Downs motorsport complex

Clayton Reid is delighted Ross Reid Contractors is carrying out the earthworks for the exciting Hampton Downs motorsport complex.   BY GAVIN RILEY

Earthmoving and civil construction company Ross Reid Contractors has worked on many major projects in the Auckland region in its half-century history.

In the past 15 years alone the company has been involved in 45 significant contracts, including the Alpurt B1 and Mercer-Long Swamp roading schemes, the Sylvia Park shopping complex, and the Cossey’s Dam upgrade.

But none has given current managing director Clayton Reid more satisfaction than carrying out the stage-one earthworks for the $120 million Hampton Downs Motorsport Park, which began in late February.

Reid is the father of leading A1GP driver Jonny Reid, who fired up a motorscraper and cut the first slice to signify the earthworks were under way.

Clayton Reid says he is delighted to have gained the contract and to be working on such an exciting international motorsport complex.

“To help build the first entirely new circuit in New Zealand in 30 years is a real privilege,” he says. 

The stage-one earthworks involves about 220,000 cubic metres of cut and fill and is due to be completed by June-July. However, Ross Reid project manager Ross Ferraby says the work is going well and it is hoped to finish earlier, given favourable weather. 

“The latest forecast we have is the weather’s supposed to be good for the next month, so the chances of getting the earthworks done ahead of schedule are looking good,” he says.

However, the work is not entirely straightforward.

“We’re dealing with a swamp area so it’s liable to surface flooding,” Ferraby says.

“We’ve been laying a considerable amount of SG80 woven fabric that is high strength in both directions.”

The company’s heavy armoury on site includes six 631 motorscrapers and a smaller scraper, a Komatsu D275, a Cat D7, three 20-25 tonne excavators, and two 825G compactors. The workforce numbers 12 to 15.

Hampton Downs Motorsport Park is located on a 150 hectare site near the Meremere drag strip and oval in North Waikato, just south of Auckland. Due to open in October next year, it will comprise three sealed circuits, 32 purpose-built garages with hospitality suites, 12 industrial units, 80 trackside apartments, a skid pan for driver training, a restaurant, a convention centre, showrooms, a swimming pool and a tennis court.

The clockwise track will consist of a 3.8 kilometre large circuit with 10 corners (see secondary story), a 2.8 kilometre medium circuit with eight corners and hilly contours, and a 1.2 kilomere club circuit with five corners and one small hill. There will be many advanced features such as sealed run-off areas that are usually found only at Formula One circuits.

Hampton Downs Motorsport Park managing director Tony Roberts says a second earthworks contract, comprising more than 100,000 cubic metres, will be let around June-July. No decision has yet been made on whether the contract will go to tender or be let at a negotiated price.

Earthworks two will be part of the second and third stages of the project, which will also consist of building the 80 apartments, the sealing of the track and all the track subsidiaries, and building the 12 industrial units. Stage four will comprise the construction of the convention centre, restaurant and pit building.

The Hampton Downs concept was introduced to the public in mid-2004. That it took two and half years to get underway, Roberts attributes to delays caused by the Resource Management Act.

“We never doubted for a moment that we would succeed, but the RMA costs have been horrendous,” he says.

“Part of your cost is time-related. We’ve lost a season in the construction, which you can’t really quantify as to what that’s cost us – but millions, in effect.

“However, in actual costs we’ve spent $1.2 million on the resource consents. It’s basically taken us two years to get those.

“In Dubai the government says, ‘We’re going to build a race track’, and it’s built in 18 months. In China they built a $500 million circuit from go to whoa in 18 months.

“We’re so slow here to do anything, we’re missing opportunities. It’s a sad thing, really.”

Roberts says many of the obstacles his motorsport concept faced emanated from government departments such as Transit and Corrections – even though the site of the track and its facilities next to a prison and a landfill was carefully chosen to give as wide a “buffer” area as possible to residential areas.

However, those frustrations are now behind him and he and his Hampton Downs co-director Chris Watson strongly believe their project will serve as a catalyst for development in North Waikato.

“The motorsport park will bring an estimated $35 million into the North Waikato region each year and when completed will employ between 300 and 400 people,” Roberts says.

The new State Highway expressway directly from central Auckland and a similar upgrading from Hamilton means Hampton Downs can be reached in only 40 minutes from either city by a population base of more than two million. A new overbridge at Hampton Downs Road intersection ensures easy passage to the venue’s car parks.

The ecologically friendly motorsport park will feature extensive tree planting and will be more than a racing circuit.

“The track will be open every day of the week and the bread and butter will be the driver training,” Roberts says.

“So what we are offering will be very much a social benefit, something the Government won’t acknowledge even though we would have far fewer accidents if people were taught to drive properly.

Hampton Downs will have a crowd limit of 20,000 for race meetings – but not immediately.

“We have to go through a process of doing minor, then medium, then major events to prove we can do it,” Roberts says.

“That’s what we had to do for Transit, otherwise they wouldn’t agree to the consent.”

Contractor Vol.31 No.3 April 2007

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