Road cleared to run rally in Central for first time
Central Otago will host New Zealand's only tarmac road rally for the first time.
The Central Otago District Council dismissed an objection at a meeting yesterday to close Moa Flat Rd, at Ettrick, to allow Targa NZ to hold a stage of its six-day car rally event in October.
Roading manager Julie Muir said it was the first time the council had received an objection to a road closure for an event.
Targa organisers had spoken to the objectors and had since altered the course so none of the properties would be within the road closure, she said.
In a letter to the council, objectors Robert and Jackie Aitchison said it was "inappropriate and risky" to hold the event in Moa Flat Rd - a steep, winding, uneven-surfaced road with no crash barriers and sheer drops.
The road was a boundary for the Aitchisons' farm and during the past 70 years the family had dealt with many serious accidents, including a fatality, the letter says.
"Targa drivers may be experienced but accidents still do happen and Possum Bourne is testimony to the fact."
Holding the event in Moa Flat Rd would convey the message it was OK to race on rural back-roads, and it encouraged young, inexperienced drivers to use the road for racing.
Any road closure would also impede farm access, the noise would disturb ewes lambing and frighten stock mobbed up for tailing, it says.
Roading services officer Mick Sparrow said yesterday morning that the council had received a phone call from another affected farmer who said other landowners supported the event.
"They are all for the event, saying [they] don't get many events in [their] area of this calibre and they are looking forward to it."
The event is expected to attract thousands, including more than 100 competitors, 80 non-competitive drivers, and spectators.
Targa NZ spokesman Ross MacKay said the council's decision to support the event - the country's only tarmac road rally - was "fantastic news".
This year's six-day Christchurch-to-Queenstown event, from October 27 to November 1, would be the "best yet" as it celebrated its 20th year of racing for the first time in the South Island, he said.
"Originally, it was going to be Auckland to Invercargill but it was turned into Christchurch to Queenstown because of logistics. The positive response from competitors has been huge."
The vehicles all complied with WOF regulations and were road registered, he said. Targa NZ was separated into two events: the Targa Tour, which featured road-legal exotic vehicles such as Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini; and the competition cars, which all complied with current Motorsport NZ safety requirements and were GPS tracked and monitored via Targa Base, he said.
The rally will reach Invercargill on October 30 with a day's end stage at Teretonga Park.
October 31 will be spent completing stages in Eastern Southland and West Otago before finishing at Cromwell's Highlands Motorsport Park - owned by five-time Targa NZ winner Tony Quinn.
Competitors then spend the final day in the Lakes region with stages across the Crown Range and to and from Glenorchy, before the official finish in downtown Queenstown and the prizegiving function the next day.
The Southland Times