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HomeNew ZealandRotorua’s Ngongotahā skid pad: Proposed re-opening prompts fear of ‘nauseating’ smell

Rotorua’s Ngongotahā skid pad: Proposed re-opening prompts fear of ‘nauseating’ smell

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By Laura Smith, Local Democracy Reporter

The last few years have been “heaven” for Ngongotahā resident Richard Kean. That’s because a neighbourhood skid pad closed.

The skid pad near Ngongotahā, Rotorua, which was shut down in 2018.

The skid pad near Ngongotahā, Rotorua, which was shut down in 2018.
Photo: LDR / Supplied

Now, with recent plans to revive the skid pad pitched, he fears the “nauseating” smell of burning rubber and the sound of backfiring cars will return.

Ngongotaha Motorsport’s Leon Khan said the resource consent process would address noise and believes odour is no issue.

A skid pad was originally built in 2015 on Khan’s private whānau-owned Ngongotahā land and opened to the public in 2016.

It closed in 2018 after an Environment Court case ruled he needed to obtain land use consent from Rotorua Lakes Council in order to hold motorised sporting events.

Community and regulatory services manager Kurt Williams previously said the venue was issued with an abatement notice and two subsequent $750 infringement notices to stop operating.

Five complaints had been made between 1 August, 2016, and 8 July, 2017, all relating to noise concerns and one alleging smoke/odour from burnt rubber.

All five complaints came from one person.

Williams said resource consent may need to be publicly notified if it impacted the community unless affected parties gave written approval.

It would also depend on the requirements of other agencies such as NZTA, police and the regional council.

Discussion on the pad was re-ignited recently when Khan started a petition to gather support. He intends to apply for resource consent.

His plans to re-open the skid pad have been praised by some, who said it would be a safe space for the car community.

However, nearby resident Richard Kean said living at his Ngongotahā home was dreadful when the skid pad was being used. When it was closed, it was “heaven”.

The noise was “unbelievable”, to the point residents needed to wear earplugs or ear muffs, he said.

The smell of burning rubber was suffocating and “absolutely nauseating”.

He said he worried about the environmental impact and the potential loss of value to his property.

However, he said he was not opposed to opening a skid pad away from residential houses.

Kean said he did not complain to the council during the skid pad’s open period but he would make a submission if there was an opportunity during the resource consent process.

In response to Kean’s concerns, Khan said people would be able to have their say during the consenting process.

Khan said he believed Kean was exaggerating and noise complaints would not matter if he passed the acoustic reports he would need to have done.

He did not think smoke or odour was an issue, nor would there be any environmental impact. This was based on conversations he had in 2016 with a regional council pollution prevention officer.

Ngongotaha Motorsport's Leon Khan (left) and Taupō businessman Tony Walker.

Ngongotaha Motorsport’s Leon Khan (left) and former managing director of Taupō Motorsport Park, Tony Walker (right), will meet this week to discuss Khan’s plan to try and reopen the skid pad.
Photo: LDR / Mead Norton

The next steps for Khan were to figure out the best ideas for improvements, particularly for the driveway, which was one of the concerns raised by NZTA. Its recommendations included changes to the passing lane near the property, using temporary traffic management during events and a drug and alcohol management plan.

Khan will meet with a consultant and with former managing director of Taupō Motorsport Park, Tony Walker, this week.

“Then we can put together a business plan and sort out all the reports that’ll need to be done.”

These included the acoustic reports and consent.

Khan said a plan would need to be made for funding the project.

Rotorua Lakes Council district development deputy chief executive Jean-Paul Gaston said no resource consent application had yet been received but once it was the council would consider relevant matters and work through the process with Khan.

A police spokesperson confirmed police had been called to incidents at the skid pad when it was open but was unable to provide specific details.

“While a dedicated facility that provides a safe space for car enthusiasts can be viewed positively, we would expect that it complies with health and safety regulations and local government bylaws so everyone who is there participating, or watching, is kept safe.”

They said the police’s focus was ensuring motorists remained safe behind the wheel.

“There is a huge risk to road users when a driver makes the choice to deliberately lose control of their vehicle. There are many occasions and YouTube videos showing the consequences of that.”

In the absence of any lawful skid pad, the spokesperson said police would warn anyone wanting to do burn outs on public roads to reconsider that action, given the risk they posed to themselves and others.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council compliance team lead Trudy Richards said it was responsible for regulating discharges of contaminants to air from anthropogenic sources, including smoke and odour. This was included in the consent processes.

The Regional Natural Resources Plan policy framework and rules have been updated since Khan was last advised and she encouraged him to get in touch to discuss the current proposal to ensure compliance.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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