MEDIA RELEASE 7 June 2017 |
The Victorian Government made the wrong legal call when it approved the licensing of commercial horse training at Belfast Coastal Reserve, according to new legal analysis.
The legal analysis by Environmental Justice Australia for the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) comes as the Andrews Government is about to license commercial horse trainers for their continued use of the reserve, near Warrnambool.
Chris Smyth, VNPA’s marine and coastal coordinator, said the Belfast Coastal Reserve was a sensitive and fragile area being torn apart by commercial horse training.
“Belfast Coastal Reserve is a critical home for the threatened hooded plover, a small beach-nesting bird that numbers only 600 in Victoria,” Mr Smyth said.
“The horses churn up the sand, disturb the adult birds and chicks, and damage protective fencing.
“This past August-March breeding season has been poor for the plovers, almost certainly due to the horse training and unleashed dogs.”
The legal analysis indicates that Victoria’s environment minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, incorrectly used the Crown Lands (Reserves) Act when she approved the issuing of licences.
It also suggests commercial horse trainers require a permit under the Coastal Management Act. There is no evidence of a permit being issued.
“The Belfast Coastal Reserve was set up to conserve the area and allow for passive recreation, not race tracks,” Mr Smyth said.
“By taking the wrong legal approach and ignoring the reserve’s purposes the minister has opened up a large piece of public coastline to the commercial racing industry.
“Commercial horse training is damaging the natural and cultural heritage of the Belfast Coastal Reserve and putting at risk the safety of beachgoers,” Mr Smyth said.
“Based on the legal analysis, the minister should stop commercial horse training in the reserve now.
“If the minister allows commercial horse training to continue, we fear that many other coastal reserves will be under threat.”
Environmental Justice Australia, on VNPA’s behalf, has written to the minister, explaining why commercial horse training in the reserve could be illegal and urging her to prohibit the activity.
VNPA has not had any response to a letter it sent to the minister in February seeking clarification of her decision to approve the licensing.
- Victorian National Parks Association – 9341 6500.
- Bruce Lindsay, Environmental Justice Australia – 0439 035 277.