MEDIA RELEASE 15 March 2018 |

As the deadline for submissions on the draft Belfast Coastal Reserve management plan nears, national, state and local environment groups have called on the Andrews Government to remove commercial racehorse training from the reserve’s beaches and dunes.

The reserve is between Warrnambool and Port Fairy.

Matt Ruchel, Executive Director of the Victorian National Parks Association, said the management plan would quadruple the number of racehorses trained each day in the reserve and more than triple the area of beaches they can use.

“If this plan is approved, a quarter of the reserve’s beaches would be used by racehorses, plus a large section of highly fragile dunes where past racehorse training has been highly destructive.

“When the Andrews Government issued a licence for commercial racehorse training in the reserve in June 2017, it boasted that daily racehorse numbers would plummet from 250 to 65 and threatened Hooded Plovers would be protected. Under this plan, all those racehorses are coming back. That’s hardly protection.”

Paul Sullivan, CEO of Birdlife Australia, said beach-nesting birds and commercial racehorse training are incompatible.

“Belfast Coastal Reserve is one of the most significant sites for threatened Hooded Plovers, critically endangered Orange-bellied Parrots, and numerous migratory shorebirds. The racehorses churn up the sand, disturb the chicks and nesting birds, crush eggs and damage habitat.

“The reserve was set up in the 1980s to conserve its natural, cultural and recreational values. Commercial racehorse training was never in the mix and shouldn’t be now.”

Bill Yates of the Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group said racehorses intimidate local beachgoers, risk the safety of the general public, and put vulnerable wildlife at risk.

“The draft plan fails the logic test when it comes to commercial racehorse training. It describes the damage caused by horses more than 20 times, but fails to explain how massively expanding their access will avoid those impacts.

“The plan’s risk assessment shows that management won’t make any difference. Before management, the risk to coastal dune vegetation, cultural heritage, and resident and migratory shorebirds from racehorse training is rated ‘Extreme’. After management is introduced the risk rating remains ‘Extreme’!

“Ever since the uninvited invasion by racehorses in 2015, their training has been mismanaged, with numerous breaches of licensing conditions, public safety put at risk and taxpayers footing the bill for costly Parks Victoria surveillance and infrastructure upgrades. Expanding the number of beaches they can train on will simply make that worse. And talk of self-management by commercial racehorse trainers is ludicrous.”

The deadline for submissions to the draft Belfast Coastal Reserve coastal management plan is Friday 16 March. The groups are urging their supporters to make submissions calling for the removal of commercial racehorse training from the reserve.

Community Symposium

The Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group has organised ‘Save Our Beaches – A Community Symposium’ for Sunday, April 15 at Crossley Hall, 212 Port Fairy-Koroit Rd, Crossley.

The symposium starts at 12 noon. View the address on Google Maps.

The symposium will feature keynote speaker Bob Brown, politicians, musicians, environmental groups and Indigenous Community Representatives who are deeply concerned about the proposed regulation of Commercial Horse Training in the Belfast Coastal Reserve. Ticket price includes lunch.