Council will consider a recommendation to renew the lease of the Basin Reserve Speedway at its meeting on May 17.

The Speedway has a 70-year history at the Reserve and Speedway events have proven to be a popular drawcard. It is the recognised as the oldest operating speedway in Australia still on its original site.

The Speedway is currently operated by the Daylesford Speedway Drivers Association (DSDA), a not-for-profit incorporated association.

According to a Community Engagement Report which forms part of the Council Papers, support for the Speedway is overwhelming –  83 per cent of respondents supported the renewal of the Speedway lease. Council conducted the community survey on the proposed lease renewal between January 16 and February 11 this year. Of the 360 responses received, 306 supported the continuation of Lease for the Speedway on grounds of history and tradition, community contribution, economic benefit, importance of a diversity of sport offerings and it being a multi-generational and inclusive form of family entertainment.

The DSDA contributes locally through fund-raising events for the RSL, Daylesford Hospital and recently, the Breast Cancer Foundation.

Renewal of the lease is subject to some restrictions.

Race meetings would be limited to 18 per year with a calendar of events to be submitted to Council for approval. The Speedway operates for nine months of the year meaning that meetings are limited to two per month during the racing season.

Racing would be limited to the hous between 10 am and 6 pm and would not be permitted on days when festivals or events are scheduled at Victoria Park.

The DSDA will be required to maintain an Environmental Management Plan. Several significant trees were removed from the site in about 2016 but Council has not been able to determine whether Speedway members were involved. The DSDA has expressed interest in assisting with revegetation works proposed for Basin Reserve.

There are no specific statutory noise policies for motorsports events but an acoustic report indicated that existing use meets noise limit benchmarks. An environmental report found no significant issues.

The support for the lease renewal appears to be inconsistent with the views of many local residents who complain about the noise and the frequency of race meetings.

Because of the survey method, self-selection bias may be a factor in the survey outcome. Self-selection bias is introduced into a survey when project participants choose whether or not to participate in the project and the group that chooses to participate is not equivalent to the group that does not. Good research methodology requires that sources of bias be controlled.

In other community surveys, Council has used pop-up sessions in the local area to prompt feedback from residents. No pop-up sessions were conducted during the Speedway engagement process. No random survey of residents was conducted.

All responses were anonymous. Unlike the Rex engagement process, there was no requirement for respondents to identify themselves by name, age group or Council ward.

The survey was open to anyone who could access the Participate Hepburn website. The Community Engagement Report presented to Council notes that “at least 55 responses were identifiably from outside the Shire”. There may have been many more. The report did not compare the positive response rate from those known to live outside the Shire to those known to live within the Shire.

The survey was widely publicised in the DSDA facebook page with links to the survey and cross posted to other motor enthusiast pages. A random sample of DSDA Facebook members by The Wombat Post found that less than 1% of group members identify as living in Daylesford. 64% identify as living outside Hepburn Shire and 35% do not identify their place of residence.

It may be that the “overwhelming support” of the community is primarily a result of people who live outside Hepburn Shire.