- Under a state government proposal, horse training would be allowed back on beaches including Killarney, Levys Point and the Cutting, and would be allowed to continue at Golfies.
- Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio says the Belfast Coastal Reserve Draft Management Plan is about “balance”.
Racing Minister Martin Pakula weighs in
"The Warrnambool Racing Club, the Office of Racing, Racing Victoria and I have all been working tirelessly to deliver an outcome which will ensure the future of training in the south west, while also protecting the environment and cultural heritage,” Racing Minister Martin Pakula said.
"The racing industry is a huge contributor to the local economy. It creates thousands of jobs and attracts valuable tourism to the region.
"This is a draft plan and I wouldn’t want to pre-empt the outcome of consultation. We want to give everyone the opportunity to put forward their views before it’s finalised.”
Moyne Shire’s Colin Ryan: council should administer licences rather than Warrnambool Racing Club
Moyne Shire mayor Mick Wolfe said his first impressions of the report were that it mirrored aspects of an October motion passed by the council.
He said councillors would meet to discuss the draft in more depth.
"Whilst horses are topical, I've got no doubt all councilors will want to go through entire document and discuss other things," Cr Wolfe said.
Councillor Colin Ryan said the draft plan lacked detail in general and needed more information about car parking at Golfies.
He said more detail was needed for conditions at Killarney Beach, but he agreed with the idea of letting established, small trainers use the spot once again.
Cr Ryan also called for Moyne Shire to administer licenses rather than the Warrnambool Racing Club.
"What's happened to date hasn't worked and it's inappropriate that Warrnambool Racing Club, due to a conflict of interest, administer licences for horse training in our shire," he said.
Greens criticise plan
The Greens say the state government’s draft plan for the Belfast Coastal Reserve will double the number of beaches where “racehorses can run rampant.”
Greens MP Ellen Sandell said the draft management plan was further proof the government would “always favour the racing and gambling industry over endangered species.”
"This plan will double the number of beaches where racehorses can run rampant, putting endangered animals, and people, at risk. This reserve is a vital breeding spot for the threatened hooded plover and was set up to protect wildlife and allow people to enjoy nature - not for the racing industry to take over and use for free.”
Ms Sandell said the decision showed the government only cared about their mates in the racing industry.
Trainer Darren Weir says draft plan ‘terrific news’
Victoria’s leading trainer Darren Weir told The Standard his initial thoughts regarding the state government draft plan to work horses on local beaches was terrific news.
Weir, who trains at Ballarat and has a satellite stable in Warrnambool said he will have a closer read of the draft papers before forwarding a submission.
“It looks positive news,” the Melbourne Cup winning trainer said.
“It’ll be good if we find common ground for all parties but I’ll be having a good read of the document over the next few days. It’s been a bit hectic down at Golfies as we’re there with surfers and other beach users and that’s fine we respect that but there’s a lack of parking down there.
“We’ve been taking 22 horses down to Golfies each morning since December 1. Our biggest issue at Golfies is our young female track riders cop terrible abuse from a minority group of people each day. It’s really harassment and they are only doing their jobs.”
Weir revealed he had cut his horse numbers from 70 when Levys Point was closed in September 2016 to 50 horses now.
“The same amount of horses are not being worked in Warrnambool as there were back in September 2016,” he said.
“We’ve dropped back from 70 to 50 horses and Mitch Freedman who had more than 30 horses has shifted to Ballarat. I think if they open up Levys Point again it will solve a lot of the issues which has put pressure on other beaches.”
Thumbs up from Warrnambool Racing Club chairman Nick Rule
The draft plan by the state government to allow horses on beaches including Killarney, Levys Point and the Cutting got the thumbs up from Warrnambool Racing Club chairman Nick Rule.
Rule said the plan is a step forward for racing in the south-west.
“It’s fantastic to see the government has realised racing has a significant impact on the south-west,” he said. “It looks to be a well thought out plan which appears to acknowledge all groups.
The plan also caters for little trainers including Chris Ryan, Patrick McKenna and Jim Madden to train their small amount of horses where they have for years without any concerns.”
Rule said the racing club will read the 112 page document closely over the next few weeks before making submissions by the March 16 deadline.
Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group says government has ‘squandered’ opportunity to sensibly manage beaches
Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group spokesman Bill Yates said in releasing the plan, the Andrews government had “squandered the opportunity for sensible management of South-West Victoria’s most precious tourism, recreation and nature conservation assets – its beaches – and put them at mercy behind the screens of the horse racing industry”.
“The government is requesting beach goers, dog walkers, anglers, surfers, even recreational horse riders accept being the 'collateral damage' for an appalling expansion of racehorse training areas and numbers – not on a race track or vacant paddock – but on all the long stretches of beach from Warrnambool to Port Fairy,” he said.
“The proposal will allow industrial scale racehorse training, monopolising public car parks and popular beaches between Warrnambool and Port Fairy including East Beach, Killarney Beach, the Cutting and Levys Point. This high-speed track work by up to 50 horses a day effectively bars everyday beach-goers from these areas for fear of ugly confrontations... or worse. It may well become a necessity to check horse training times as well as the tide chart before visiting your favourite beach’.”
Former Moyne mayor Doukas says access for small local trainers important
Two prominent Moyne residents are waiting to arm themselves with more information before commenting extensively on proposed changes to the horses on beaches issue.
Moyne Shire councillor Jim Doukas and Killarney musician Shane Howard are both reserving full judgement on a draft plan from the state government for the use of the Belfast Coastal Reserve.
This draft plan puts forward recommendations regarding horse training on beaches in the reserve.
In October, Cr Doukas, who was then Moyne Shire mayor, put forward a motion to allow South West Owners, Trainers and Riders Association (SWOTRA) to have restricted, regulated and controlled access to Killarney Beach.
The motion was passed, reversing a decision made by councillors in April to not allow any horse training on the beach.
While the draft plan appears to back the council’s decision to let horses back on Killarney Beach, Cr Doukas remains cautious.
“To be honest, I am still getting my head around it all,” Cr Doukas said.
“As a council we will have a good look at the plan and get ourselves fully informed.
“Personally, I would like to see the small local trainers have access to the beach.”
Mr Howard, who has been lobbying the government to keep horses off Killarney Beach, said his early impressions were that the report is not favourable.
“I really need to have an in-depth look at the plan but at first glance I must say I am a bit stunned by it,” Mr Howard said.
“It looks like something from the 1960s.
“There is a lot of stuff going on and lots of information to digest but it does appear disappointing.”
The draft plan does not stipulate the times horse training would be allowed on Killarney Beach.
The Moyne Shire Council’s October motion for local trainers to bring their horses back to the beach provided some more detail.
This stated that training be permitted on Killarney Beach from February 1 to December 15, excluding Easter Weekend and Folk Festival long weekend holiday.
Another condition was that horses would only be allowed to walk, trot and/or canter on beach between dawn and 10am daily.
Other conditions included a maximum of six horses be permitted on the beach plus up to four horses in the water at any one time, that horses would not be permitted on the soft sand and horses would need to stay at least 20 metres from other beach users.
The October decision by council was welcomed by local trainers who believed they would use the beach responsibility, something they said had happened for generations.
SWOTRA secretary says she needs to see more details
South West Owners, Trainers and Riders Association secretary Tammy Good said she couldn’t comment on the draft until she saw the detail but she was hopeful of eventually getting horses back on the beach.
She said the biggest problem had been the increase in volume of horses and ideally there could be smaller numbers of horse at more beaches.
She said SWOTRA was committed to being respectful of the process.
Port Fairy MP James Purcell says Levys Beach ‘perfect location’ for racehorses
Port Fairy-based Upper House MP James Purcell says he pushed for the state government to return horses to Levys Beach.
Mr Purcell said Levys was the “perfect” location. His comments come after the government on Wednesday released its draft management plan for the Belfast Coastal Reserve, which proposes a five-kilometre stretch of beach and dune from west of Levys for licensed racehorse training.
“It’s a good location because it is not used for anything else, it’s out of the way. I’ve been there a number of times when horses have been worked and haven’t seen a soul there,” Mr Purcell said.
“Levys is going to be the best solution because even though it is used by fisherman and also by surfers, it’s one of the least-used beaches.”
Mr Purcell, whose son is a racehorse trainer, said the draft plan also offered some protection to small-scale trainers and recreational riders to continue to use The Cutting, near Killarney.
While the plan proposes to continue training on Golfies at Port Fairy, something Mr Purcell had previously labelled “stupid”, he said the plan for Levys would solve the issue.
“In my crystal ball I think Levys will take all the pressure off the other beaches and it won’t be an issue,” Mr Purcell said.
“Give it a year and there won’t be any conflict at all.”
Mr Purcell said he was keen to see more detail on how the licensing system would work and when the changes would come into place.
Fisherman ‘disgusted by plan’
Recreational fisherman Alan Primmer said he was disgusted by the proposed plan and it would ruin all that was good about Levys Point.
Mr Primmer had been fishing at the beach on Wednesday morning and said the beauty of the area was the solitude.
"They can't have it here," he said.
"Why destroy this? They've done it in Western Australia and it just wrecks it.
"Where are they going to park the the cars. The plovers have got no hope.
"I was out there first thing this morning and you wouldn't be able to do it with horses here.
"It's a place where you come to be by yourself."
Conservation group ‘deeply concerned’
The state’s leading conservation group is “deeply concerned” by a new management plan for the Belfast Coastal Reserve that it says will increase the area for racehorse beach training by 250 per cent.
Victorian National Parks Association spokesperson Chris Smyth said under the proposal, a five-kilometre stretch west of Warrnambool’s Levys Beach and a 750-metre stretch of sand dune known as Hoon Hill would be opened up to horses.
He described it as a “massive increase” on the two-kilometre stretch of sand currently open to horses at Golfies under a temporary plan.
“It’s a massive increase for something that should have never been allowed near the place,” he said.
Mr Smyth said hooded plovers nested across the whole stretch of coast and the plan would put the birds and beach users at risk.
He said the plan “flies in the face” of what a coastal reserve should be and did not contain details on how horses on beaches would be managed.
“This plan would be laughable if it wasn’t so serious,” Mr Smyth said.
“There’s never been a good argument for putting horses on beaches. It’s not good for the hooded plovers and it’s not good for beach users.”
Mr Smyth said the current interim licensing arrangements were not well managed and proving costly in monitoring costs incurred by Parks Victoria.
“Even with two kilometres it’s been poorly done, so how are they going to manage the five kilometres and the sand dune?” he said.
Mr Smyth said the association would be putting together a submission on the plan, and continued to call for a purpose-built facility for racehorses. He said while the argument was often made that horse racing was important to the region’s economy, health and environment and tourism were also vital considerations.
This article summarises the issue, outlining current racehorse training conditions and those proposed:
What the draft Belfast Coastal Reserve Management Plan could mean for horse training on south-west beaches
The Belfast Coastal Reserve Draft Management Plan outlines the proposed management of a narrow section of public land covering beaches between Port Fairy and Warrnambool for the next 15 years.
The plan says it takes into account locals and visitors who use the reserve for activities including walking, swimming and dog-walking as well as Eastern Marr and Gunditjmara people, who are actively involved in the management of the reserve.
Racehorse training by both small and larger commercial trainers has taken place on a number of the beaches in the reserve. In September 2016, racehorses were banned from the Levys Point dunes after Aboriginal Affairs Victoria “cautioned” Warrnambool City Council about the impact of horse training on Indigenous cultural heritage.
At the moment, licensed racehorse training is only allowed at a stretch of beach called Golfies near the Port Fairy Golf Club.
The draft management plan states: “The location, timing and intensity of activities such as horse riding has been managed to avoid conflicts between uses, and to reduce the risk of damage to environmental and cultural sites.”
The plan separates Belfast Coastal 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.
According to Racing Victoria, there are 250 thoroughbred racehorses training around Warrnambool, with 140 training daily. There is a preference for beach training because of the low-impact surface.
Victorian government releases draft plan to put race horses back on south-west beaches
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.