A plan to open up a section of Port Fairy’s East Beach for horse training has been ridiculed in state parliament.
Port Fairy-based MP James Purcell told the Upper House on Thursday night relocating horses from Killarney beach to near the western end of the Port Fairy Golf Club was the “most stupid idea”.
Mr Purcell, a strong supporter of racing – his son Aaron is a Warrnambool horse trainer – said a minimum of 120 horses each morning would use the section of East Beach as a “training track”.
“With the promise to have Killarney Beach closed by Christmas and with the Warrnambool beach closed over summer we could see over 200 horses per day on East Beach, with many members of the public not happy to share the space with galloping horses,” he said.
Mr Purcell said the industry had to provide adequate facilities away from beaches.
“For too long, Warrnambool Racing Club has had an easy ride with so many of the horses being trained off the racecourse,” he said.
“To solve this problem and keep our racing industry alive, the Warrnambool racetrack must provide the facilities including a usable synthetic training track and an uphill gallop.
“If the Warrnambool Racing Club had provided the necessary training facilities in the beginning then we would not be facing this problem.”
He urged Racing Minister Martin Pakula to help the industry provide the facilities.
Mr Purcell’s comments came as the industry reels from a ban on horses at Warrnambool’s Levys Point – a ban he wants overturned.
That ban was announced earlier this week after Aboriginal Affairs Victoria cautioned Warrnambool City Council about potential impacts of horse training on indigenous cultural heritage.
The council’s chief executive Bruce Anson said it was keen to find a solution that balanced the needs of all beach users.
“Permits which allowed horses to be trained at Levys Point have expired and Parks Victoria will not be issuing or renewing permits until more is known about the indigenous heritage sites,” he said.
“Dune access to the Belfast Coastal Reserve, which involves entering via Levys Beach, is managed by Parks Victoria, so the ultimate decision as to what access horses have to the dunes lies with Parks Victoria.”
He said the council, which controlled Lady Bay, had introduced restrictions that allowed horses on the beach.