A horse trainer who has been slapped with $1586 in fines for breaching a no-go zone on a Port Fairy beach by just 20 metres says he is bewildered by the penalty.
Warrnambool’s Peter Lafferty said that while he didn’t shy away from the fact that he did the wrong thing, he was disappointed to be the first horse trainer fined under the new restrictions.
About 7.30am on June 5, Mr Lafferty and his daughter were trotting horses on Golfies beach when a racing official monitoring trainers informed him of the infringement on his first run, so he made sure the next three runs were within the posts.
A Parks Victoria officer, who was also there, spoke to Mr Lafferty and more than a month later fines of $793 for each horse arrived in the mail.
Mr Lafferty, 57, said his family had been using the beach at Port Fairy to train horses for almost 100 years without incident.
He said fines ranged from $113 to $793 for a “very serious” offence, and being hit with the largest possible fine for breaching the licence conditions was unjust. “I questioned the words ‘very serious’,” he said.
Mr Lafferty said he understood that the rules had changed and he was there to abide by them, and did so when he was alerted to his error.
“It’s a bit like driving for 30 years and going 61km/h in a 60km/h zone, not in front of a school but when there’s no one within a kilometre of you except for two people in the car park that are standing on the sand dunes.
“So should you get fined $800 for doing 61kmh in good weather and good light?
“Some common sense should come into play which it clearly hasn’t in this case.”
Mr Lafferty said he had rarely used the Port Fairy beach since the new rules came into force, and believed the day of the incident was the first time he’d been there since the posts marking the no-go zone were erected.
He said the post at the car park end was in the wrong spot to begin with because to access the beach you had to break the law to do so.
Mr Lafferty said few people used that area of the beach, citing a one-month period in November 2016 when he visited the beach 18 times and only saw three people.
He said claims of horses destroying beaches and adversely affecting the hooded plover population were unfounded
“We are here to respect other users and the environment. We’re not here to damage it,” he said.
Mr Lafferty said he was not angry about the fine, had no argument with Parks Victoria and appreciated what they, along with councils and all interested parties, were trying do.
He said he was disappointed with the attitude and lack of respect towards horse trainers who have had a good record.
However, he also said he didn’t hide from the fact that some years ago, that with extra horses on the beach, there were some who probably stretched their use a little bit.
A Parks Victoria spokesperson said the conditions had been in place since mid-2017 and until now there hadn’t been any fines issued for horse-related activity.