MEDIA RELEASE 1 August 2018 |

Conservation groups are angry at the release of a final management plan which entrenches damaging and disruptive commercial horse racing on public beaches in South West Victoria.

The final plan for the Belfast Coastal Reserve between Warrnambool and Port Fairy entrenches the horse racing industry on public beaches, allowing 175 racehorses or more per day ploughing up and down these beaches. This number more than doubles what the current interim license allows for, which is only up to 65 horses per day.

The release of the final Belfast Coastal Reserve Management plan sets a poor precedent and will essentially commercialise Victoria’s public beaches. Commercial racehorse training will take place at four locations within the reserve – Levys Beach, Hoon Hill, Rutledges Cutting, and Killarney Beach.

“The plan is unbalanced and incompatible with protecting the original purposes of the reserve, which is to conserve its natural, cultural and recreational values – not turning it into a race course” said Shannon Hurley, Nature Conservation Campaigner for the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA).

“The plan itself identifies ‘habitat degradation from disturbance of horse training activities’ and its impacts on beach-nesting shorebirds like the nationally threatened Hooded Plover, and coastal dune vegetation, as high – even after management action. This shows that commercial racehorse training is too great a risk, and should not be permitted within the reserve.

“The Andrews Government is blatantly ignoring community concern, as submissions suggested that commercial horse training was not supported by the majority of the local community and that it was damaging to the Reserve’s environmental values.

To accommodate the increase in commercial racehorse training, to meet Occupational Health Safety Requirements and other rules, the racing industry will be required to build new infrastructure such as carpark expansions to accommodate a greater number of horse floats, installation of fencing, barriers and other structures.

“It’s a coast, not a race course. It is hard to see how the beach amenity and threatened species habitat will be protected under this plan.”

The final plan does make some concessions. Horse training on Golfies beach, near Port Fairy, has been excluded since the draft plan, and the impact of dog walking is well identified and restricted as on-leash with the exception of Killarney Beach.

“Entrenching and expanding commercial racehorse training in the reserve is a concern of the wider Victorian community. It sets a terrible precedent for Victoria‘s coastal planning and management, reflecting poorly on the Andrews Government.”

Bill Yates, Spokesperson for the local Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group (BCRAG) said:

“Horses can be trained at purpose-built facilities but our shore birds, like the sensitive Aboriginal cultural heritage sites in the reserve, can‘t be relocated.

Conservation groups have already delivered over a thousand letters and petitions opposing commercial racehorse training from across Victoria to relevant ministers. Groups have vowed to look at all options to overturn the damaging parts of the plan.