Friday, 22 May 2015

Motocross Training Facility or Trojan Horse?

Trojan horse (n): a trick or stratagem whereby something that has been made to appear desirable actually contains within it something harmful, dangerous or threatening.

The application for a Material Change of Use of the land at the end of Adare Road north of Gatton to allow a "motocross training facility" to be established describes a two-stage development, which in total appears to be considerably beyond motocross training.  

Let's take a look at different aspects of the application, starting with Stage 1 and Stage 2.  Keep the Trojan Horse in mind.

Stage 1 will involve:
  • creation and operation of 1 Motocross Track;
  • providing a sealed access from the property frontage to the track area, including a culvert creek crossing;
  • constructing and operating a canteen for up to 150 people;
  • constructing a toilet suitable for 150 people per day;
  • operating hours from Tuesday to Friday 4.00pm to 9.00pm; and Saturday and Sunday 9.00am to 4.00pm;
  • traffic volume around opening and closing times of up to 150 vehicles per hour.

The Application document for Stage 1 stands out in a number of ways, few of them good.  For the purposes of this discussion it is notable that it has been cleverly "trimmed" so that there is virtually nothing in the Stage 1 application which is going to require the involvement of State or Commonwealth government agencies.  And it's wrapped in a warm and fuzzy "training facility" blanket.

But Stage 2 will add:
  • four more Motocross Tracks, to make a total capacity of 200 bikes at a time on the tracks;
  • camping and cabin accommodation for 100 people;
  • expanded toilet and shower amenities;
  • expanded canteen;
  • a caretaker's residence;
  • "occasional" "event weekends" (racing) when the opening hours on Saturday and Sunday will be from 9.00am to 9.00pm;
  • more noisy nights (6/week instead of 4/week when events are held);
  • noise going later at night because of campers and cabin occupants;
  • at least five times the traffic on local roads (5 x no. of bikes + campers).

All of the harder to sell stuff is in Stage 2:
  • 200 bikes at one time;
  • the possibility of clearing vegetation to fit in the extra tracks, the camping and accommodation;
  • the expanded sewage treatment and disposal; and particularly
  • the "events", which can only be a weasel word for someone who doesn't want to say "race meetings" out loud.  
The extreme noise produced by motocross bikes means that it is becoming more and more difficult to gain permission for establishing a motocross track, let alone multiple tracks.  Including racing events into the mix makes it even harder.   In general it is difficult to get permission for motor racing of any kind anywhere near a sizeable population.  This is particularly the case where the racing events will be frequent and will affect a significant number of residences.  Many jurisdictions require motor racing to be confined to special precincts.

This property at Adare where the proposed motocross activity would be located is not in such a precinct, and the area would be unlikely to be declared a motor racing precinct through any transparent and public process.  

Maybe labelling Stage 1 as a "training facility" might just sneak in? 

But, if this is about “training", where are the trainers and trainees?

The Adare Road Stage 1 application is for a "motocross training facility".   However, the words "train", "trainer(s)" and "trainee(s)" do not appear anywhere in the Application document.  Neither is there any reference to "pupil(s)", "student(s)" (at least, not in relation to the proposed activity), "practise"/"practice" (except in "Practice/Training Sessions").

There will be a full-time staff of four - but their list of duties do not include the words "training" or "coaching", and there is no mention of any intention to employ part-time trainers.

In a Gatton Star article on 17 December, the owner of the applicant company made much of the intention to train and provide coaching for "kids" and "recreational beginners" in a "family" sport.  But, the following relevant words DO NOT appear in the Application: child, kids, recreational beginners, beginners, or coaching.  "Children" occurs, but not in relation to the proposed motocross activity.  "Family" occurs but only in relation to biological taxonomy.  Remember, this is in addition to the missing words: train, trainer(s), trainee(s), pupil(s), student(s), practise and practice as mentioned above.

No trainers?  No trainees?

Also, if this is about a “training facility” where is the demand and business case?

So far as can be ascertained, there are no other motocross operations in Australia that are solely training facilities.  Apparently no one else has identified sufficient market demand to base a motocross business solely on training.  This would be something new and different.   

Strangely, the application contains not a single word about the need that the proposed "motocross training facility" will be serving.  Nothing about the size of the market or the demographics and ability to pay of the potential client base. In fact there's no demonstration of need or likely financial viability at all.

This is important because "training" implies something different to what users get at a recreational motocross facility.

It implies instruction, personal attention from qualified trainers, and care and attention to safety, because it is catering in part for newcomers to the sport who can be expected occasionally to do stupid things.  But even for more advanced trainees, "training" implies that they are being taken to a higher level of skill, being pushed beyond their current abilities and limits.  Again, extra service, care and individual attention beyond what is the norm at a recreational motocross facility.  And presumably extra risk (remember this is an extreme sport) and higher insurance premiums.

In every way, this extra level of attention and care would unavoidably mean extra costs for a business running this kind of training, and this extra cost will have to be passed on in higher charges to patrons than are being levied by existing recreational motocross tracks.

So a demonstrated demand and a business case are important - if only to convince us that this really is intended to be a training facility, and not just a cover for a recreational motocross track that will later become a race event facility.

The application does say that the number of patrons on the site at any one time will be limited to 150 but does not say specifically that these will be trainees.  In fact, if there were to be 150 trainees at one time, you'd expect to see a quite a lot of trainers on the staff, at least on weekends when you maybe could get 150 actual trainees.

The need to provide an adequate ratio of trainers to trainees is important, certainly to the proponent, and certainly to people who send their kids along to a training facility to learn an extreme sport.  It is no less important to those of us who might be impacted by a recreational/racing motocross track masquerading as a training facility.

No identified market?  None of the training-related words in the Application?  No estimate of number of trainees at any one time? No trainers? No business case?

Then there's "practice": what’s the difference between practice and recreational motocross riding? 

The application makes it clear that the activities that will be undertaken at all times in Stage 1 will be "Practice/Training Sessions".

  Maybe there will be "practice" but without any training?  How does that kind of practice differ from the kind of recreational riding that is done at any motocross track?  It seems like the same activity to me.  Same motocross bikes going round and round, up and down.  Same 'as fast as they can go' riding. Same very, very noisy activity - the type of activity that is very difficult to get approved in any area where there are 900 people living within four kilometres.

Trojan Horse?  Couldn't happen - the Council wouldn't be so silly?

It's happened before - remember Black Duck Valley (three deaths, multiple serious injuries, massive noise impact on local people - that Black Duck Valley) - well that was permitted by Council as a Material Change of Use for Outdoor Entertainment Off Road Education.

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