NEWS 30 October 2018 |

Commercial racehorse training has been found illegal under the Warrnambool Planning Scheme – and therefore on Levys Beach, one of the horse racing industry’s main training locations in the Belfast Coastal Reserve.

This is a fantastic result for Levys Beach and testament to our wonderful supporters, who have taken action, and to the local Belfast Coastal Action Group (BCRAG) for their tireless efforts to protect their local beaches.

After the 2015 Melbourne Cup there was an explosion of racehorse trainers on Warrnambool’s beaches, and the Andrews Government bent over backwards to legitimise this inappropriate activity. Up to 260 horses were allowed per day on these public beaches. The release of the final Belfast Coastal Reserve Management Plan in July 2018 saw this dropped to a minimum of 175 horses – still too many hooves thundering along the sand.

Levys Beach is one of the four sites where commercial racehorse training could take place within the Belfast Coastal Reserve. Levys Beach and Hoon Hill are the two commercial sites, where larger numbers of horses under the guidance of the Warrnambool Racing Club would have rights to train. Killarneys and Rutledges Cutting beaches are the two historical racehorse training sites, where smaller numbers of local trainers would be situated.

Without getting into complexities, the sites differ in who manages them, ranging from state government to local council. Levys Beach is managed primarily by the Warrnambool City Council.

VNPA’s legal advice found commercial racehorse training to be illegal at Levys Beach under Warrnambool City Council planning rules. Triggered by this, at a special meeting on 26 October, the Council voted unanimously to rescind their previous decision to allow horses on Levys Beach.

No commercial racehorses ploughing up and down Levys Beach is good news for wildlife such as the nationally threatened hooded plover, a small shorebird known fondly as ‘hoodies’ that breed and nest on these beaches, and the safety of beachgoers and the local community.

Although there are still the three other sites open to racehorse training, Levys Beach had by far the largest number of horses.

VNPA’s campaign to protect other beaches in the Belfast Coastal Reserve from commercial racehorse training continues, as the course could still change for the worse. The Warrnambool City Council could amend the Planning Scheme, which would take more than 12 months. The Planning Minister could also over-rule local planning laws for a quicker fix. The current Planning Minister has so far ruled this out, but who knows what will happen after the imminent Victorian election.

Meanwhile local protests continue. Singer, songwriter and local resident Shane Howard of Goanna fame provides a unique perspective on the saga in opinion piece in The Age.


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