Taupō’s successful bid for the New Zealand round of the Repco Supercars Championship is expected to have major tourism spin-offs for the southern Waikato, the Bay of Plenty and Hawke’s Bay.
Supercars announced on Monday that Taupō would hold a round each year from 2024 until at least 2026.
Taupō Mayor David Trewavas described the announcement as the “highlight of my career”. It came about after extensive lobbying from local and central government, funding from the Government’s Major Events Fund and a “modest” and undisclosed cash investment from Taupō District Council.
Although Taupō hosts a number of major events each year, including the New Zealand leg of the Ironman race and the Lake Taupō Cycle Challenge, but Trewavas said the Supercars were on a much bigger scale.
“I don’t think people realise how big this is. You know how big Bathurst is, or Darwin, Adelaide, all that sort of thing? This is the New Zealand round, so all sorts of inquiries from tour companies and that sort of thing [are] coming in already – where to stay and what to do and all that sort of thing.
“Definitely, it is a regional thing, so it will fill up Rotorua, as well as possibly Hawke’s Bay, because an hour and a half away from an event is nothing to the Australians. So it will fill up those, and also Ruapehu District – it will give them a hell of a boost as well. Plus, there will be huge opportunity for locals to Airbnb their houses.”
He said the attraction for the council and the Major Events Fund was the “long-term high profile” the district would get.
“Everyone knows about Bathurst, so that will be a similar sort of thing for Taupō.”
Supercars CEO Shane Howard said they were “honoured” to receive the New Zealand Major Events funding and Taupō District Council’s endorsement for the Supercars Championship’s return in 2024.
“This support is a great step forward in ensuring we can begin a new chapter of racing at the world-class circuit in Taupō.”
He said they were now looking for a suitable date for the event.
“We can’t wait to get over to New Zealand to celebrate with our dedicated fans this major announcement for the championship.”
Tauhara hapū and Ngāti Tūwharetoa spokesperson Te Moananui Rameka welcomed the news.
“This event marks a significant opportunity for our rohe, both culturally and economically. Supercars offers a platform to showcase our indigeneity to the world. This event can serve as a bridge to share our traditions, stories and values with attendees from around the globe, fostering understanding and appreciation of who we are as a people.
Trewavas said the council’s main contribution to the event was to provide the infrastructure to support all the people coming into town.
The one area where Taupō was short on resources was in large hotel accommodation. Three large hotels have been granted resource consent over the past three years, but building has yet to get under way on any of them.
“I plead for the developers to get things moving now they stack up economically.”
A big part of the case for Taupō was that it was a tourism town, and reasonably close to other main centres like Rotorua, Hamilton, Tauranga and Hawke’s Bay.
“There are plenty of activities for people to do – the topography and the geographical nature [of the area]; the splendour of the lake and the mountains; being able to line the cars up on the lakefront.”
Taupō International Motorsport Park owner Tony Quinn said it was fitting the Supercars event was coming back to NZ.
“Hats off to everyone who has made it happen. The Kiwis are going to love the excitement of it all. While some people might be surprised that it’s at our Taupō track, we think it’s a winning combination – the track will provide excellent racing, the consents are all in place, Taupō and their community have a proven track record in hosting world-class events, and we know that Supercars knows how to make the magic happen.
“Since purchasing the park at the end of 2021, we’ve been full steam ahead bringing it up to ‘TQ’ standard, and it’s special for our organisation to be part of the team making Supercars a reality back in NZ, in one of the most stunning regions in the country.
“I’ve no doubt that the Aussies that make the trip over to NZ are going to be well-impressed with the Taupō region and all it has to offer, and will go home and spread the good word.”
Rameka said by embracing the Supercars event, they were forging a meaningful partnership between the Tauhara hapū, Ngāti Tūwharetoa and the motorsport community.
“This collaboration promises cultural exchange and sustainable economic advancement for our people. We look forward to this event’s positive impact on Tauhara hapū, Ngāti Tūwharetoa, the Taupō community and Aotearoa.”
Trewavas said attracting a premium event like Supercars to the Taupō district “further cements our reputation as the events capital of New Zealand”.
“Our central location means people will come from all over the country, and we are looking forward to making the most of it. We expect a lot of visitors to our town and our district, and we know they’ll receive a warm Taupō welcome.”
He said there were no plans to upgrade Taupō Airport to cater for international flights, although the newly built airport terminal made handling increased domestic traffic a lot easier.
“Hamilton [and] Rotorua have tried [for international airports] and they are still paying the debts off, so they don’t work. Everything has just got to come through Auckland. It’s as simple as that. It’s easy to come through Taupō now with the new terminal, and it is going to be a pleasant experience for the arriving teams.
“They air-freight everything in – all the cars and everything like that are air-freighted into Auckland and come down from there. We are ready, the terminus is ready, and that’s perfect timing as far as that goes.”
Repco CEO Wayne Bryant said the news was outstanding for the sport and the local fans.
”As a proud transtasman business, having a round of the Supercars Championship in New Zealand makes sense for everyone. Repco has 87 stores in New Zealand, and we know the Kiwis love their cars and motorsport. It’s the perfect match.”
“The passionate support at Pukekohe last year was unforgettable. We know the unbelievable pedigree of drivers and crew within the sport that New Zealand continues to produce, so this just makes today’s news a big win for all.”
ITM CEO Sara Johnson said: “We’re excited to share today’s announcement that Supercars will be making their return to NZ for the highly anticipated ITM SuperSprint.”
“After a year’s hiatus, the anticipation for this news is clear. This is set to be an historic moment in New Zealand motorsport, with the inaugural running at Taupō International Motorsport Park at the heart of our beautiful country. We consider it a privilege to once again be part of this event, bringing the thrill back for the fans.
“As a long-standing supporter of Supercars since 2010, ITM is passionate about motorsport in NZ, and we cannot wait to see the racing kick off again in Taupō as part of the 2024 Repco Supercars Championship.”
Taupō International Motorsport Park has four racetrack configurations, and Supercars events will use the 3.32-kilometre International Circuit configuration.
The venue features a three-storey pit lane complex featuring 32 pit garages and first-floor corporate suites within the race control complex.
Supercars will continue to provide updates regarding the event date, ticketing information and further details over coming weeks.