The head of Major Projects Canberra, Duncan Edghill, has resigned from the Canberra Racing Club board days after the government released a draft planning document that outlined possible scenarios for Thoroughbred Park’s future.
Two options were outlined in the draft Inner North District Strategy, one of which involved getting rid of the racetrack entirely as part of a rezoning of the land.
Another option would mean some of the land being redeveloped for housing with the track remaining.
As the head of Major Projects – the government’s most significant infrastructure arm – Mr Edghill presides over the city’s biggest projects like the Canberra Hospital expansion.
The club has stressed Mr Edghill resigned voluntarily.
Canberra Racing Club Chair Les Boag said he had tendered his resignation to avoid any possible perceived conflict of interest as the club plans to “extensively” deal with the Territory government in the coming years.
“I would like to thank [Mr Edghill] for his tireless, dedicated and valued efforts as Treasurer and Committee-person and wish him all the best for the future.”
The planning document raised the hackles of the racing club and the Canberra Liberals as it was released on the horse racing industry’s most important day of the year – the Melbourne Cup.
CRC CEO Darren Pearce described the release of the government’s draft district strategies – specifically the option without the racetrack – on Tuesday (1 November) as a “shock to the system”, given they had not been forewarned.
“There are a lot of employees of the club, racing industry participants who had a sleepless night last night worrying about what it meant for them, their careers, and their businesses and their families,” he said.
But Chief Minister Andrew Barr has since sought to reassure the club the choice is theirs as to what they do with the site.
“It’s up to Canberra Racing Club how much housing they want on the site,” Mr Barr told reporters on Wednesday.
“If they want to move off-site, that’s allowed for as an option … but I imagine they will want to settle on that site and build around it.
“I hope they will bring the harness racing club into the precinct as well, that will free up space in Exhibition Park for a number of projects.
“All the district plan does is enable the fullest extent of the TPV [Territory Plan Variation] – that’s why there are two options.”
Mr Pearce confirmed the club will be “vigorously” pursuing the option where the track stays where it is but the land surrounding it is redeveloped to include housing.