Ohakune Giant 1000 hillclimb cancelled

29 03 2012

This event has been cancelled at the last minute by the organisers because of safety concerns after local iwi, via the Ngati Rangi Trust and their spokesman Che Wilson, stated they would hold a picnic on the road to disrupt  the event. They have been strongly supported by Ruapehu District Council mayor Sue Morris, despite her council giving approval for road closures to hold the event. The underlying theme to objections seems to be the desecration of the sacred mountain by racing up the road. I have been unable to perceive how this event engenders such desecration when many other activities, such as ski-fields, adventure tourism and commercial activity does not. There seems to be a particular snitch about this event by some local iwi, who have used unfair and unjustified pressure to halt the event. Here is an open letter I have written to the Ngati Rangi Trust:

An open letter to the Ngati Rangi Trust


RE: Cancellation of the Ohakune Giant 1000 event.

I write as a competitor who was entered into this event, and not in any way as a representative of the organisers of this event. My comments are mine personally, and mine alone, although I suspect they will echo the thoughts of many others.

Your Trust (or at least one or more influential members of your Trust) has opposed this event and now at the eleventh hour, despite repeated advices and notifications to you without response, a threat to disrupt has been issued. This action by your Trust has caused the cancellation of the event, to the dismay of organisers, competitors, spectators and local businesses. A significant economic benefit to the Ohakune district has been lost.

Such action will engender a reputation that will make it more difficult for the District to attract other events that might possibly fall foul of Trust feelings.

In your media release you detail four reasons for your opposition.

1 -Desecration of sacred site – Mount Ruapehu is the spiritual alter and burial ground for Ngāti Rangi

I am sure you are aware that there are 3 ski-fields operating on Mount Ruapehu, as well as many other activities of a commercial and/or recreational nature. Desecration is not measured by degrees. There is either desecration or there is not. If there is no desecration by ski-fields how can it be argued that this event is a cause of desecration? If there is desecration by the ski-fields it begs the question as to why that is tolerated where this event is not. This reason does not stand up to the most cursory scrutiny. 

2 – Noise pollution effects and accidents – impact of rally on avifauna and damage through accidents to the national park – check out http://www.youtube.com for the evidence.

Again, the effects of noise pollution and accidents from other activities would far outweigh any damage from this event. This reason does not stand up to the most cursory scrutiny.

3 -Access to the national park – the Ohākune Mountain Road is the southern access road to the Tongariro National Park and the rally restricts freedom of access

It is common practice for public roads to be closed from time to time for events, including, but not limited to, motorsport events. Local councils approve these closures on a regular basis. Freedom of access to Tongariro National Park is a vital consideration. In the context of an event of this nature, most people would consider it not unreasonable to allow a closure for several hours over 2 days to be put in place, particularly considering the economic benefits to local communities and businesses.

4 – Role modeling – approving the rally may encourage reckless driving

This reason is nonsense. On that basis motorsport would be banned completely. I suspect that the author and driver of your policy would like to see that happen, however it is sad that such sentiment should be allowed to drive Trust policy.

Indeed many would argue to the contrary: that official motorsports events provide good role modeling and promote responsible use of motor vehicles in a controlled environment, especially considering the safety rules under which these events are managed.

In summary I am deeply disappointed at the cancellation of this event particularly considering the spurious reasons given. The local council had given approval, and authorized the road closures. The cause of this cancellation is the action of your Trust.

I have put the reasons behind your decision to pursue this action in context. They fail utterly under scrutiny.

However one or some in your Trust have managed to have their personal views prevail and the result is an action which puts your Trust in a bad light in the view of the wider New Zealand community, and has also done significant damage to your local community.

Finally, after considering the above and this quote from Che Wilson on stuff.co.nz: “People just wanted to take their gas-guzzling machines onto the mountain. It’s just boys and their toys”, I am drawn to the inescapable conclusion that there is a strong anti-motorsport sentiment driving the Trust policy.  (For your information it’s not just boys – there are several women entered as either drivers or co-drivers, one of whom is in her 80s!)

Allowing the proponents of this sentiment a personal victory has been at the expense of the Ohakune community as a whole, and has damaged the Trust’s reputation as a responsible guardian of Mount Ruapehu.

Greg Spark



Sue Morris, Mayor, Ruapehu District Council

Ian Bowater,  Taupo Car Club

Max Hodder

Radio New Zealand

Fairfax media, stuff.co.nz

TV3 news




7 responses

29 03 2012
Chris Beddall

I echo your sentiments Greg- What a farce, is this what NZ is coming too?

29 03 2012

Here is the text of email correspondence I have had with Sue Morris, Mayor of the Ruapehu District Council:

Good Afternoon Greg
Thank you for your e-mail regarding the cancellation of the rally. Unfortunately, the organising of this event has been plagued with difficulties. At Council’s meeting held on 28 February, we were very nervous that major criteria had not been met to secure an event of this status. In fact 10 days prior to closing of entries for the event no Environmental Plan, Communications Plan, Public transport Plan, appropriate insurances, and acceptable consultation with Ngati Rangi had been met. With some reluctance the Council still gave approval for the event providing that criteria was met. With some extraordinary work from our Transport Team Leader – just about all the boxes were ticked.

Greg, irrespective of the cultural, spiritual, or any other excuse the Ohakune Mountain Road is a “Special Purpose” road with special purpose funding – not built for rally cars. In fact after last years debacle it was agreed that this event would not be held again on the road. The Council on Tuesday has once again confirmed that position. Nobody wants events cancelled in their districts but the organising group needs to be much more professional in their planning especially when they have 12 months to do it.

I appreciate the inconvenience for the competitors, but we will work together to see that a successful outcome is accomplished in the future.

Mayor Sue

Sue Morris JP I Mayor
Ruapehu District Council

T 07 895 8188 I F 07 895 3256
E sue@ruapehudc.govt.nz
Private Bag 1001 I Taumarunui I 3946 I
New Zealand I http://www.ruapehudc.govt.nz

—–Original Message—–
From: Greg Spark [mailto:sparkg@wave.co.nz]
Sent: Thursday, 29 March 2012 10:26 a.m.
To: Sue Morris
Subject: Cancellation of Ohakune Giant 1000 event

Dear Mayor Morris,

You have been very supportive of the local iwi in Ohakune in their efforts to achieve the cancellation of the Ohakune Giant 1000.

This despite your council providing approval for the road closures allowing the event to proceed.

The prevailing sentiment seems to be around the sacred status of the mountain to local iwi, and perceived desecration that would be caused by the race.

Can you please explain why this event in particular among all the activities on the mountain, has been singled out as a cause of desecration that is unacceptable, when all other activities are do not apparently cause any desecration of the mountain.

I understand the need for your office to maintain good relationships with local iwi, but I would have hoped there would be some rational basis to your position on important issues.

I have attached an open letter I have written to the Ngati Rangi Trust.

Kind regards
Dr Greg Spark

29 03 2012

Notice how after I have pointed out the hypocrisy of claiming desecration of the mountain she switched to: “the Ohakune Mountain Road is a “Special Purpose” road with special purpose funding – not built for rally cars”.


This is the true debacle – not what happened last year. In fact what was the “debacle last year” – some cars ran off the road (including me!) – in a rally? really? Wow, now that’s a first!……….

30 03 2012

Regardless of how ‘plagued with difficulties’ the organising may have been, it was approved and boxes ticked. It is obviously an important event for the district of the ‘Transport Team Leader’ would not have gone to such extents to do so.

The notation of ‘Special Purpose Road’ relates back to the Transit New Zealand Act 1989 and was a mechanism to provide Local Government with additional funding to maintain & improve roads within their jurisdiction that were of importance to the national roading network and were not State Highways, with out this classification, they would be a burden on Local Government funds to maintain/improve to a level required by the user.

In the Ruapehu DC’s ‘Land Transport – Asset Managment Plan’ Appendix I – Roading Heirarchy, Ohakune Mountain Road (OMR) is an “Arterial” second only in the districts’ heirarchy to “State Highways”.
Refer Appendix L – MOU for the management of Ohakune Mountain Road
Objective 1 – “That the road is to be maintained and operated in accordance with the Transit NZ Specification and Guidelines.”
In Section 5.2.1 sub-heading ‘critical assets’ it states “The highest hourly flow recorded is 825vph”

To say the road is ‘not built for rally cars’ is obsurd.
Ignoring the above there is no road built for a rally car, thats the point.
A rally can be held on dam near anything with a suitable route.

Regarding Ngāti Rangi Trusts’ concerns.
If they were valid, they would be objecting to other ‘extreme’ sports that take place all winter at the ski-fields incl the high traffic volumes up the mountain.
Or even the ‘Drift Trike’ event held on a closed OMR on Saturday 24th March, and was a front page article in the local paper on the 27th (http://www.ohakune.info/bulletins/ruapehubulletin.pdf).

Utterly disapointing outcome for the event.

31 03 2012
Joe Fox

One would have thought that the council would have been doing everything possible to help the organisers (not only due to the obvious financial benefits to the local community) rather than simply sitting back and waiting for and Environmental Plan, Communications Plan, Public Transport Plan etc etc etc…. Why not work with these people? By adopting a more supportive and cohesive partnership with community groups seeking to hold events such as this, your town and district would be far better off.

1 04 2012

Absolutely right, Joe.
I am left with the overwhelming impression that the RDC and its mayor, Sue Morris, are bending over backwards to pander to the iwi, at the expense and exclusion of everyone else. The reasons Sue Morris has put up to defend her position do not hold any water at all. A road not designed for a rally? What? Does she have any idea how much damage is done to that road by vehicles using chains throughout the ski season? 32 rally cars having 3 runs each up the mountain in comparison…………..
The whole thing is a crock, and the organisers have had their collective eyes poked by a rude and arrogant group determined to have their way despite free access to due process. And Sue Morris says that’s OK!!

2 04 2012
Debbie Clunie

Oh dear, oh dear. What a fine example of the empty pitcher making the most noise. One or two noises can always spoil it for the law abiding, rule following competitors – how the heck does that work? I just know that if I tried any of this stuff I would be arrested or have my property or family threatened. Having been a car club member for 30+ years, a competitor way back when, on the organising committee for the Daybreaker Rally and Secretary for the CRRS I know my motorsport reasonably well. Why are there still two sets of rules and why is this sort of thing still happening. From the outside, looking in, NZ is Pee Ceed out! Enough is enough – you have no idea how weak and pathetic the ‘fun police’ look from overseas. I love NZ and it’s beauty but I won’t be back to live for a while because of a lot of these ridiculous attitudes. Oddly enough I had planned to come back and live in Raetihi……….

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