RELATED: Letter rocks big industry
Killarney beach will be closed to horses within 75 days, it emerged on Friday.
Moyne Shire mayor Colin Ryan revealed the beach would be horse-free from December 1 and nearby Rutledge’s Cutting would also be off limits year-round.
The intent to close the areas hastens the need to find a solution – without the beach, participants say the industry that generates $100 million annually in the south-west will be threatened.
The issue at Killarney has a domino impact on beach access across the region with Warrnambool’s Lady Bay beach closed for the three months of summer. Last December, trainers beat a path to Killarney for the low-impact sand surface and recuperative powers of the Southern Ocean, creating safety issues for campers, tourists and beach goers.
In a bid to avoid a repeat of last summer and appease vocal residents who want to reclaim the beach for passive use, the council is pushing for a new area to be created for horses further west near the Port Fairy Golf Club.
Cr Ryan has been leading the council through a process to have a new parking area created at the western end of the golf club and horses allowed to use the beach between Mills Reef and the eastern end of a rock wall in front of the former tip site.
Horses would be allowed on the beach from daylight until 10am Monday to Friday and banned from the dunes.
Cr Ryan said the plan would protect Killarney and Rutledge’s Cutting and open up the eastern end of East Beach to more people. But critically, it would give certainty to the racing industry.
Cr Ryan was upset ex-Moyne mayor and now MP, James Purcell, said in parliament the plan was “stupid”.
“I was very angry and disappointed,” Cr Ryan said.
He revealed he met Mr Purcell at parliament on Wednesday after he and Warrnambool City Council chief executive Bruce Anson had spoken with Racing Minister Martin Pakula. He said Mr Pakula was receptive to the plan.
“I have spoken with my local parliamentarian (Mr Purcell) about an issue I was working through. For him to go and can us in parliament the next day without any further consultation I find very, very disappointing,” Cr Ryan said.
“There were things that were not correct, the issues were mis-represented. There won’t be 200 horses. He failed to mention the benefits of closing Killarney to all horses. The outcomes I’m working to would be a good result for the area.”
Mr Purcell had said Warrnambool Racing Club had for too long enjoyed an “easy ride” and needed to provide better facilities for trainers at the course.
Warrnambool Racing Club chief executive Peter Downs was stunned with the criticism, saying Mr Purcell’s comments were damaging to its long-term goals.
He said the club applied for funding to upgrade a grass-training and trialling facility but the success depended on having high numbers of horses in work.