MotorSport New Zealand joins with the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) and other national motorsport governing bodies to acknowledge and thank the thousands of volunteers who contribute to their time and talents to motorsport around the world for the FIA Volunteers Weekend on 19-20 May. The initiative is being promoted using the hashtag #FIAVolunteersWeekend.
In New Zealand, several hundred people of all ages work as volunteers at motorsport events most weekends up and down the country – and that’s just at the race, rally, hillclimb and rallysprint events permitted by MotorSport New Zealand (MSNZ). Hundreds more will be involved in different forms of motorsport such as karting, speedway, motorcycle events and more.
MSNZ President Wayne Christie says it’s difficult to determine the total contribution of motorsport volunteers in terms of hours worked and economic impact other than to say it’s very significant.
“Like most sports in New Zealand, without our volunteers, our sport simply would not exist,” Christie says. “Every aspect of the sport involves volunteers – from a flag marshal at a race track who is trained to respond to crash situations for the safety of our competitors, to a rally marshal looking after spectators on a gravel road, and people like me who volunteer to help govern New Zealand motorsport at board level. Each and every person, no matter what their role, is appreciated by MSNZ.”
Christie adds: “Many of our volunteers utilise their day-to-day professional skills in their motorsport roles, and for others, motorsport offers an opportunity to learn new skills, be part of a team and make lifelong friends.
“A lot of work is being done at present to strengthen the training that we can offer our volunteer officials, with new programmes and online training modules in the pipeline.
“Other initiatives such as the trans-Tasman female official exchange programme see one woman from New Zealand and one from Australia travel to work at a high profile Supercars race meeting in the other country. It’s an amazing opportunity to see observe how things are done across the Tasman, meet new people and generally raise the profile of women in our sport.”
Another initiative is the development of a volunteer welfare policy which outlines expected standards of staffing levels, rest breaks and other health and safety considerations for organisers of motorsport events. The policy was developed by the members of the Volunteer Advisory Commission, one of seven advisory commissions, all staffed by volunteers, which contribute to MSNZ’s operations and governance in specialist areas.
Volunteers are also recognised with an annual Volunteer of the Year award which is presented to one volunteer selected from the nominations submitted by the approx. 100 member clubs which own MSNZ as an incorporated society. The award will next be presented at the MSNZ annual awards night on 26 May in Wellington.
Christie and other former MSNZ Presidents before him, such as Morrie Chandler ONZM, are good examples of how volunteering to help govern the motorsport in New Zealand can offer opportunities at the highest levels of world motorsport. Chandler served in a number of influential roles with the FIA, most recently as a Vice-President on the World Motorsport Council. Late last year, Christie was elected president of the FIA Rally Commission, which is responsible for overseeing the welfare of rallying below World Rally Championship level, with a particular focus on the global regional rally championships, such as the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship.
“These and other international opportunities are open to many of our motorsport volunteers, with dozens offering their experience and services to major international events such as the Australian F1 Grand Prix, the Bathurst 1000 and Rally Australia,” Christie says.
“There is no doubt New Zealand continues to punch about our weight in all aspects of motorsport around the world. It’s not just our star competitors like Brendon Hartley, Scott Dixon and Hayden Paddon – you also never know when you’ll find another highly-regarded Kiwi volunteering at a motorsport event as an official or FIA observer.”
Talking about the #FIAVolunteersWeekend, FIA President Jean Todt says: “Volunteers are the unsung heroes of motorsport. Without them, quite simply, we would not be able to go racing. It is important for the FIA to recognise their vital contribution, and the occasion of the Volunteers Weekend shines the spotlight on their hard work and dedication to ensuring the safety and success of events the world over. This is also an opportunity to promote the positive benefits that volunteers gain from their involvement, and help attract new people to motorsport.”
MotorSport New Zealand has created a volunteers’ register where anyone who currently or would like to volunteer in the sport can create a profile, provide valuable feedback to the organisation and receive helpful communications about training and event volunteer opportunities – see the MSNZ Volunteer Register for more details, or follow MotorSport NZ Volunteers on Facebook.