Purcell says strong racing interests do not influence his decisions

Member for Western Victoria James Purcell sees the new Belfast Costal Reserve draft plan as a move towards compromise. Picture: Rob Gunstone
Member for Western Victoria James Purcell sees the new Belfast Costal Reserve draft plan as a move towards compromise. Picture: Rob Gunstone

Upper House MP James Purcell says his decisions about the issue of race horses training on south-west beaches are not influenced by his strong involvement in the sport.

When the Belfast Coastal Reserve Draft Management Plan was released in February, Mr Purcell described its proposal to allow commercial race horses to be trained on a five kilometre stretch from Levy’s Point as the “perfect solution”. 

The Vote 1 Jobs MP is a shareholder, director and public officer of Tiger Bronze – which trades as Enjoy Racing – and said, “I breed and race many racehorses”.

“As a long-time councillor and now member of parliament in a regional area, it is inevitable that issues arise which we are connected to in some way, shape or form,” Mr Purcell said.

“I abide by the Parliamentary Code of Conduct and make decisions independent of my position with other industries or groups.

“I consistently ask the public for their opinion on controversial matters to help shape my position and will continue to do so throughout this remaining time in parliament.”

In September 2016, Mr Purcell said opening up a section of Port Fairy’s East Beach for horse training was “stupid” and the racing industry had to provide adequate facilities away from the 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 in state parliament at the time.

“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.”

Mr Purcell said he maintained his call that training horses on the section of East Beach was “stupid”.

“I have not changed my mind by supporting the Levy's option,” he said.

“This is a totally different proposal. This location is not a popular swimming or walking beach with year-round use, which is why this option is 'the perfect solution'.”

Mr Purcell said he still believed improved facilities at the Warrnambool racetrack were the answer but he had been told an uphill track was not possible due to space.

“Considering this is not an option then the dunes is a perfect alternative,” Mr Purcell said.

Submissions on the draft plan for the area for the next 10 years have to be submitted by this Friday March 16.