Harrison Grierson helps create a world-class race track

Civil Engineering
Horses race around track with spectators. Ellerslie Racetrack set to reopen in January with the support of Harrison Grierson.

Punters and jockeys will rejoice in January as New Zealand’s premier thoroughbred horse racing track, Ellerslie Racecourse, in Tāmaki Makaurau is set to reopen. We talked to Harrison Grierson lead engineer Paresh Jesani about how we rejuvenated a weather prone track and tired facilities into a world-class horse racing facility.

We all know Auckland rains. A lot. And wet weather can get in the way of a good horse race.

A showpiece in the New Zealand thoroughbred racing industry and host to a number of iconic race days including the Boxing Day Races and Barfoot & Thompson Auckland Cup Day, the track at Ellerslie Racecourse too was feeling the brunt of Auckland’s wet weather, and it was decided a massive overhaul was needed.

Harrison Grierson worked with Auckland Thoroughbred Racing to implement a state-of-the-art StrathAyr track which would see Ellerslie’s racing surface become arguably the best track in Australasia.

We also set about designing a carpark and underpass under the track as well as a new multipurpose stormwater and irrigation pond.

The carpark and underpass

Ellerslie Racecourse sits predominately on basalt rock, as does much of Auckland! That meant almost 7,000 cubic metres of rock had to be blasted and broken to even begin development.

Once the rock was cleared, we worked to implement our design of a new 388-car carpark which sits in the middle of the racetrack.

To access the carpark, cars must drive through the newly designed underpass which travels underneath the racetrack. There was careful consideration ensuring the underpass kept below 80-metres to prevent the need for ventilation and fire requirements.

As part of our ethos to ensure materials can be re-used as much as possible, the excavated basalt rock was used on other projects around the region including an unforeseen opportunity to utilise the larger rock boulders on emergency works after the Auckland flooding and Cyclone Gabrielle. Some of the rock was also crushed offsite and returned as roading aggregate for the base of the new carpark and access road.

Stormwater and irrigation pond

In collaboration with other stakeholders, we maximised the catchments draining to the multipurpose pond for water reuse and ensured recharge of the pond provided for track irrigation year-round.

At 200m long and 50m wide, the 18,000 cubic metre pond provides resilience for drier periods reducing costs and reliance on precious portable water to supplement irrigation supply.

The design of the pond also provides for attenuation during large storm events mitigating potential downstream flooding effects.

What our client says

CEO of Auckland Thoroughbred Racing, Paul Wilcox, said Harrison Grierson was great to work with and that he enjoyed his time on the project with us.

‘’We’re building resilience into the track. It’s great for the punters and it’s also great for the riders’’.

Discover the Ellerslie Track Upgrade Montage Video Thumbnail, featuring an aerial view of a city and a vibrant green field.
Ellerslie Track Upgrade Montage
Ellerslie Track Upgrade Montage