Racehorse trainers abandon Levy’s: the battle is over

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A four-year-battle to save Levy’s Beach from mass racehorse training is over. Image supplied.

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Carol Altmann – The Terrier

A four-year battle to save Levy’s Beach/Tarerer coast from mass racehorse training is over, with a meeting of all trainers last night (Mon) voting to abandon the plan.

A meeting of about 40 SWOTRA* trainers was held to gauge opinion once and for all, and, according to a rock-solid source, it was decided by an overwhelming majority that they would no longer pursue access to Levy’s/Spookies Beach.

Trainers will instead use only Lady Bay, where numbers will be capped at 50 a day, down from 96.

The meeting, attended by an officer from the Warrnambool City Council, also agreed to lobby for better sand training facilities at the Warrnambool racecourse.

Hallelujah.

Common sense has prevailed, at last.

I could weep.

I could weep for that beautiful, wild beach, which finally has a chance to recover from decades of abuse and neglect and be nurtured.

It is time.

While the WCC is yet to formally vote on the plan, the trainers’ decision makes that vote a virtual fait accompli. It will happen quickly.

Last night’s meeting comes just three weeks after the council deferred making any decision on Levy’s so it could meet again with the main players, including trainers, and traditional owners who have been strongly against turning a precious slice of Country into an exercise park for racehorses.

Now it is done.

Now we will see an end to an ugly battle that has raged for years and savaged our community.

So many people – led by the steadfast Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group – fought to stop the madness of allowing up to 120 racehorses a day, every day, to train along the beach, and another 40 a day to trample up and down the large dune.

This outrageous assault was going to be allowed all year round.

This was never a compromise: this was utter capitulation to the Darren Weir juggernaut that blew our community apart.

There are many things that I find unforgivable about Weir, and cleaving our community in two is one of them.

The stretch of Tarerer coast/Belfast Coastal Reserve, including the dune, that was to be opened up to racehorse training. Image: Chris Farrell.

The uncomfortable truth is that if Weir had not fallen into his own vat of troubles, we would still be at war, such was his power and influence over our star-struck council and the racing industry.

Who could forget that terrible, “urgent” council meeting held just four days before Christmas in 2018, when the anger and vitriol spilled over for all to see?

It was brutal and ugly and so damaging.

Warrnambool, which has long been a racing town, was forced to take sides and friendships and families have suffered.

Now, to pull out a cliche, the healing must begin.

Levy’s Beach has to be healed and the hoons booted out through proper, serious enforcement. If you are caught being a dickhead, you are fined $3000 on the spot – that sort of serious enforcement.

And the training rules of Lady Bay need to be enforced and be seen to be enforced.

No more slaps on the wrist, no more relying on the public to capture wrong-doings on their i-phones, but instead an independent monitor who will release monthly, public reports via the council.

I recently found out through Freedom of Information that Parks Victoria planned to charge the Warrnambool Racing Club a whopping annual licence fee of $62,400 to use Levy’s Beach, such is the privilege.

Using Lady Bay for racehorse training is an equal privilege.

It is our main beach and it is our compromise, but it can only work if there is respect for the rules on all sides.

We have a chance to get the balance back.

This exhausting battle is over and – I hope – the war is too.

————

[*Trainers must be a member of the South West Owners and Trainers Association to access local beaches. The group has about 40 members, from full-time professionals to hobbyists.]

Thankyou to the Walkley Foundation for funding part of my investigative work with this on-going story, including expensive and time-consuming Freedom of Information applications and other research tools. If you would like to help The Terrier keep digging, you can find the Tip Jar here.

10 thoughts on “Racehorse trainers abandon Levy’s: the battle is over”

  1. To everyone who fought the fight at so many levels, and to you Carol for your bravery at great personal cost for sharing our collective story – well done team

    1. Hear Hear, huge congratulations to all involved. This is/was a defining battle over the use of our precious remaining wild public land. It’s importance received little acknowledgement by Government or even the relevant public service departments. Now we need to strengthen the regulations relating to acceptable uses of our conservation reserves.

  2. Thank you for your tireless effort Carol and all of the community members who have battled any way they could. No racing minister or criminal horse trainer should have ever been allowed to trample over the beaches and the community like this. I hope our environment minister does some deep soul searching over this. It was never sustainable.

    1. So many people have been involved in this fight, Toni, the list is so long that I wasn’t game to start naming names, as someone would inevitably be left out, but I am convinced that there will be a huge sense of relief on all sides tonight.

  3. Carol, what a wonderful end to a long and bruising battle. Congratulations on your tireless work, investigation and lobbying. The community is lucky to have you! A few champers in order???

    XX Marg

  4. After so much determined labour and so much emotional energy expended, many congratulations to all on a wonderful, exhilarating outcome. A historic win against the forces of ignorance and vested interests. Today you can have lots of pancackes with the champagne!

  5. Well done everyone who has been involved in this hideous practice. Now for rejuvenation and care of all, for everyone to enjoy. Congratulations all -for the long fight for commonsense…

  6. Hi Carol, as a former resident of the area, who still has family near those beaches, I am very grateful for your efforts on this issue. I also have Gunditjmara friends who are delighted with this outcome. Thanks for your persistence!

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