Horse training would be allowed back on beaches including Killarney, Levys Point and the Cutting under a draft state government plan for the Belfast Coastal Reserve.
The plan separates the reserve into two zones – a ‘conservation’ area stretching east from Killarney boat ramp to a spot known as Big Baldy, south of Kellys Swamp, bordered by two ‘conservation and recreation’ areas.
A “small amount” of horses, linked to local trainers, would be allowed on beaches within the conservation zone such as Killarney and the Cutting.
Commercial horse-training and recreational horse-riding would be permitted during set times with licence conditions on a significant stretch of beach running west from Levys Point, near the rendering plant, including access to sand dunes. Licensed training at an area near Port Fairy Golf Club known as Golfies would continue.
Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said the draft plan, which is out for public comment, was about balance.
“(It’s about) recognising the strong connection local traditional owner groups, neighbours, community groups, local businesses and all Victorians have to the area,” she said. “We want to ensure the Belfast Coastal Reserve is maintained for future generations - but also allow recreational use so Victorians get the most out of this incredible reserve.”
Race horses were first banned from Levys Point dunes in September 2016 after Aboriginal Affairs Victoria “cautioned” Warrnambool City Council about the impact of horse training on Indigenous cultural heritage.
The plan angered Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group, whose spokesman Bill Yates said the government had “squandered” the opportunity to sensibly manage south-west beaches.