RACEHORSE training will only return to Warrnambool’s Levy’s Point beach if the city’s racing club coughs up $400,000 for a car park for floats and trucks at Lady Bay.
Warrnambool City councillors voted to allow horses to resume training on Levy’s Point and amend existing agreements at Lady Bay if the club contributed $400,000 for the car park, which the council has estimated will cost $500,000, plus $100,000 for a wash down facility.
Warrnambool Racing Club chief executive officer Peter Downs said the club and the industry was happy the motion went forward to allow horses onto Levy's beach, but said the next step would be to review its financial plan.
Speaking after Monday night’s council meeting, he said the club had offered $267,000 for the car park, and $100,000 for improved infrastructure at Levy’s Point.
"A lot of work went into it over the past three years," he said.
"We will review budgets however at this stage $400,000 for a not-for-profit club and an industry that has already put in over $150,000 and made a further commitment of $367,000 for Levy's and Lady Bay makes it very difficult for us to commit any further funds.
“Over the coming days we will work with council to find the resolution to our financial issues. At this stage we are yet to see any costing or designs for the car park. We are unsure how to justify $100,000 for wash down bays. The racing club recently built six wash down bays with 16 undercover tie up stalls for less than $60,000.”
Mr Downs said the racing industry was a strong contributor to the city's economy.
"As per the IER report which came out in June this year the 2018 May Racing Carnival injected $12.5 million into the local economy in Warrnambool," he said.
There are also pending state government approvals still to be issued to the racing club, but if those are passed, and the racing club agrees to the added financial contribution 120 horses will be allowed to train at Levy’s Point beach and 40 at Hoon Hill.
The number of horses trained on Lady Bay beach will be capped at 50, with up to 116 allowed to swim.
Cr Peter Hulin moved the motion, saying it had been a contentious issue for a long time.
“The success of the racing industry in our city has caused problems,” he said.
“There is not an easy solution.”
He said he had concerns about beach goers finding horse shoes along the beach, but said he had grown up watching the horses train along the shore.
“I love it, but at the same time there can be problems,” he said.
Cr Sue Cassidy said it was an issue that would keep haunting councillors.
“Things may change over time and we hope there won’t be any environmental impact,” she said.
Cr Mike Neoh said major success from south-west trainers had seen the racing industry grow.
“We will have to continually manage the growth,” he said.
“I think a car park is critical. Levy’s Point is a difficult one. It will need to be monitored.”
Cr Tony Herbert said it had been “an incredibly difficult decision”.
He stressed serious monitoring would have to be undertaken.
“There are maximum numbers, there are setbacks from environmental areas,” he said.
“For the industry to use the beaches it saves the racing club and probably the Victorian Racing Club hundreds of thousands of dollars on infrastructure. I’m encouraging of the racing club and the VRC to dig that bit deeper for a purpose-built car park.”
Cr David Owen was strongly against horses on beaches.
“I have nothing against the industry, the jockeys or the trainers,” he said.
“They do a wonderful job in increasing our tourism and the value they bring to Warrnambool is immense, although I have to speak up for the voiceless. The Belfast Coastal Reserve plan listed horses as a threat agent. You can’t be half an environmentalist, it’s like being half-a-catholic, half-a-councillor, or half-drunk. You have to go in and show leadership.”
He said if the motion was supported the council was letting its people down.
“I don’t think we would let any other commercial enterprise push us into this situation,” he said.
His comments were met with a round of applause from the small crowd in the public gallery at the meeting.
The councillors voted 6-1 in support of approving commercial horse riding at the beaches if the funding contribution was increased. Cr Owen voted against.
Training is not allowed from December 1 to March 31 each year.