20 October 2021

ACT Government firms commitment to Canberra racing ahead of new memorandum of understanding

| Max O'Driscoll
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Horse racing at Thoroughbred Park in Canberra

Horse racing at Thoroughbred Park in Canberra. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Negotiations between the ACT Government and Canberra’s racing clubs on the next memorandum of understanding (MoU) are underway.

The ACT Government has firmed in its stance on the importance of the local racing industry, provided it remains well managed, well regulated and sustainable.

“The memorandum of understanding between the ACT Government, Canberra Racing Club and the Canberra Harness Racing Club provides an industry investment of $7.5 million per year to June 2022,” said an ACT Government spokesperson.

“Under the MoU, the racing clubs agree to meet a range of expectations regarding industry management, particularly animal welfare obligations. We recognise the Canberra community has high expectations for safe and well regulated racing in return for this public investment.

“We have started negotiations with the racing clubs on a new MoU and look forward to positive discussions.”

The inaugural Canberra racing MoU was established in 2013, with Canberra Racing Club, Canberra Harness Racing Club and Canberra Greyhound Racing Club all party to the agreement. The MoU was designed to outline the medium to long-term objectives of all parties when it came to racing; address the immediate challenges present in the industry at the time; and help ensure there is a local racing industry for future generations to enjoy.

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That first MoU expired on 30 June, 2017, and greyhound racing in the ACT was banned less than 12 months later.

On Monday, 18 October, president of the Gungahlin branch of the Belco Party, Greg Burke, said he holds fears for the future of horse racing in the ACT should the Labor/Greens government fail to address some of the key issues.

“Thoroughbred Park is a shadow of its former self, and horse racing has been declining for a decade or so in the ACT due to government neglect,” he said.

“Currently, trainers in the ACT must pay approximately 10 times more in insurance fees compared to their counterparts across the border in NSW. I can’t see trainers surviving in the ACT.”

At a public hearing on 18 October, ACT Special Minister of State Chris Steel described the next MoU as “an important mechanism to provide obligations to the racing industry” and vowed to bring animal welfare regulation in the ACT “beyond the regulatory standard”.

With the ACT Greens tabling a petition calling for the end of government funding for the horse racing industry, in December 2020, perhaps greater focus on animal welfare is the middle ground for the Labor/Greens government moving forward.

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