You don’t have to be a petrol head to be an economist

Tuesday February 13, 2018 Fiona Stokes

but it certainly helps if one of your clients is Manfeild and it is February, New Zealand Grand Prix month.  


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Unashamedly I admit I love cars.  I love driving cars, I love watching motorsport and I’m doing my best to encourage my 10 year old nephew to appreciate this love affair.  The opportunity to spend the weekend watching V8 utes race along with Porsches and F1s is why I head to Mighty Manfeild for events like the New Zealand Prix, and who wouldn’t when you can see the whole of circuit Chris Amon from any seat.  But I’m not the only one and this is where my interest in motorsports and economics starts to become more apparent. 


The New Zealand Grand Prix is a pinnacle event that attracts young, up and coming international and local drivers.  New Zealand is one of only two places outside of Formula One to use the words “Grand Prix”, the second is Macau Grand Prix.  The New Zealand Grand Prix is also attractive to international drivers because it falls in the Northern hemisphere off-season.


There are 13 drivers in the F1 this year and each of these drivers has at least eight people associated with them, including a core team of mechanics and engineers.  Each driver pays a championship fee, which covers their accommodation and associated hospitality at each of the five venues throughout New Zealand.  And each of these drivers bring supporters – partners, family or friends.  The F1 drivers arrive in the Manawatu from Tuesday, and the event at Manfeild goes for three days with prize giving at the end of the championship on the Sunday night.  Manfeild is the last stop in the championship.


But as I mentioned it’s not just F1 drivers, their supporters and crew who are at Manfeild for the New Zealand Grand Prix, it is also the V8s, the Castrol Toyota Racing Series, the GT1/GT2 and GT3 and GT4, Mazda Pro7s, the 1600 championship (which often feeds into the F1), along with my favourites the V8 utes and the Porsches.  The suites provide sponsors, invited guests and VIPs with the opportunity to sit track side at Manfeild while the garages are full, and there are trucks, vans and deck chairs everywhere. 


Events such as the New Zealand Grand Prix attract locals as well as spectators, supporters and drivers from outside of the Region.  People like myself who are from out of town stay in commercial accommodation; they enjoy local hospitality including restaurants, bars and cafes; purchase food at the supermarket, and if they get the opportunity they visit other attractions while they are in the area.  Motorsport at Manfeild directly impacts on Feilding and it spills over into Bulls, Sanson, Levin and Palmerston North.


This is why the Manfeild Park Trust is one of my clients.  The Trust employs economists because they want to know what impact the operation of Manfeild has on the local and regional economy.  This impact is generally measured using indicators such as employment and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and it considers the flow-on effects of Manfeild’s activities.  This is information that the Trust provides their sponsors, along with Park users, and it is important information for current and future funders.


Manfeild is a property that includes open spaces, buildings and a motor sport circuit (circuit Chris Amon).  The Trust derives an income from hiring these facilities; leases and rentals on the buildings and circuit Chris Amon; contracts; and grants and scholarships.  


Manfeild also hosts a significant number of community events, including free and non-commercial events.  These community events are a key reminder that Manfeild is not just a motor sport circuit, it is a facility where 90 percent of their clients are not-for-profit entities that rely on volunteers.  The benefits of hosting these events are not quantifiable, but they do confer a large public benefit to the Region. 


The New Zealand Grand Prix is the single biggest motor racing event currently associated with Manfeild.  However, it is just one of the approximately 460 events and activities that Manfeild has hosted over the last 12 months.  These events attracted an estimated 39,260 attendees, and approximately 70 percent of these attendees came from outside of the Manawatu.  The Manfeild Park Trust operates Manfeild as a business and this business brings economic benefits to the Region.