Ministers D'Ambrosio, Pakula and Hutchins yesterday announced the Victorian Government's response to the management of commercial horse training on beaches in the State's South west. The Ministerial media release is at www.premier.vic.gov.au/a-bright-future-for-belfast-coast-beaches

Ministers D'Ambrosio, Pakula and Hutchins yesterday announced the Victorian Government's response to the management of commercial horse training on beaches in the State's South west.
The Ministerial media release is at www.premier.vic.gov.au/a-bright-future-for-belfast-coast-beaches

FACTSHEET

Conditions on proposed licence to train horses on beaches between Warrnambool and Port Fairy

The Belfast Coastal Reserve is approximately 750 hectares in size, of which approximately five hectares will be accessible by commercial horse trainers under the special conditions. In other words, commercial training will be prohibited at 99% of Belfast Coastal Reserve.

The number of horses permitted to train on beaches within the Belfast Coastal Reserve will be reduced to a maximum of 65 across the reserve. 

There are five locations where horse training has historically occurred across the reserve. Of these five locations, one (Killarney Beach) is managed by the Moyne Shire Council and two are managed by Warrnambool City Council (Lady Bay Beach and Levys Beach). Moyne Shire Council has temporarily banned horse training on Killarney Beach until 30 April 2017.

The table below shows where horse training is proposed within the reserve, as per the conditions of the proposed licence.

Location

Conditions

Rutledge's Cutting middle car park eastwards towards Levy's Beach

A 1200-metre stretch will be permitted for horse training, with signage in place, from 1 May to 31 August,, Monday to Saturday,  dawn to 10am. Maximum of 15 horses per day.

East Beach, Port Fairy, from Park Victoria's car park (Skene's Rd) eastwards towards Mills Reef,

An 800-metre stretch will be permitted, with signage in place, from:

  • 1 December to 1 March, Monday to Friday, dawn to 10am. Maximum of 50 horses per day.
  • 2 March to 30 November, Monday to Friday, dawn to 10am. Maximum of 20 horses per day

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS 

Commercial horse training in Belfast Coast Reserve

How will the Government address the issue of thoroughbred training on the beaches between Warrnambool and Port Fairy (including the Belfast Costal Reserve)?

The Government has identified a multi-faceted approach to manage this issue involving:

  • a licensing scheme to control the use of the beaches for thoroughbred training purposes
  • the development of a Belfast Coastal Reserve 'Coastal Management Plan' with significant community and stakeholder input to guide future use of the Reserve
  • investment in local on-course training facilities at Warrnambool Racing Club.

What beaches will be available for commercial horse training?

It is proposed that the licence will grant (under certain conditions) access to the following beaches:

  • Gorman's Lane Rutledge Cutting (Belfast)
  • East Beach (Port Fairy)

The availability of Lady Bay (Warrnambool) for commercial horse training will remain a decision for the Warrnambool City Council (WCC). Currently, WCC permits horse training on Lady Bay from 1 March to 30 November each year, with only wading and swimming permitted between 1 December and 28 February each year.

There will be no access to the Basin (permanently) due to the number of Hooded Plover sites.

What restrictions and conditions will be imposed on commercial horse trainers for use of the beaches between Warrnambool and Port Fairy?

The restrictions and conditions for commercial horse training on beaches will be set out in the licence. The proposed restrictions and conditions include:

  • Gorman's Lane Rutledge Cutting (Belfast)
  • 15 per day outside of Hooded Plover breeding season, Monday to Saturday
    • Hooded Plover breeding season is August to February.
  • East Beach (Port Fairy)
  • 20 per day in winter, Monday to Friday
  • 50 per day in summer, Monday to Friday

These restrictions represent a significant reduction in numbers and access from current levels.

Restrictions at other beaches include:

  • Levy's Beach (Belfast)
  • No horses at present

How will the licensing scheme work?

The Warrnambool Racing Club will be granted a licence to use the beaches between Warrnambool and Port Fairy on behalf of horse trainers for a period of up to two years.

The licence will impose restrictions on the beaches available for commercial horse training, the seasons, the times available and the daily number of horses permitted to use the beaches.

The licence will also impose conditions on how horse training is conducted on beaches so as to protect the environment and cultural heritage sites and ensure the safety of all beach goers.

The licence will be subject to review after 12 months.

What will be the total reduction of horses from current levels?

The number of horses permitted to train on beaches within the Belfast Coastal Reserve will be reduced to a maximum of 65 across the reserve. Over the past two years, there has been a significant increase in the number of horses being trained in the area, with around 100 horses being trained during peak times on the various beaches in the Belfast Coastal Reserve and at Warrnambool.

How does this proposal support the environmental values of the Belfast Coastal Reserve?

The Belfast Coastal Reserve is approximately 750 hectares in size, of which approximately five hectares will be accessible by commercial horse trainers under the special conditions. In other words, commercial training will be prohibited at 99% of Belfast Coastal Reserve.

In addition, the Coastal Management Plan will provide a longer term management framework that not only considers commercial horse training but all other activities within the reserve to reduce the impact of people, vehicles and dogs as well as horses.

The community will have the opportunity to provide input in to this plan next year before it is finalised in 2018.

How does this action ensure that the Government is meeting its responsibilities to protect the Hooded Plover under the EPBC Act and FFG Act?

This action helps the Victorian Government to ensure that the local horse training industry's use of the coastal reserve is sustainable and in accordance with relevant legislation.

Until now, horse training on Belfast Coast Reserve beaches has been unregulated. The special conditions that will apply to the horse training licence have been established based on minimising the potential impacts on the Hooded Plover and assisting the industry to comply with the Commonwealth Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999(EPBC Act) and Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG Act) and Wildlife Act 1975 (Wildlife Act).

For example, the most important areas for Hooded Plover nesting, which are based on many years of data, will be no-go areas for horse training all year round. This condition is consistent with the responsibility under the EPBC Act, under which it is offence to cause significant impact to the species without approval, and with the Wildlife act, under which it is an offence to molest or disturb protected wildlife, and to damage, disturb or destroy wildlife habitat.

In relation to the FFG Act, the main response to the listing of species as threatened under this Act is the preparation and implementation of an Action Statement. Managing disturbance by horses is consistent with the FFG Action Statement for the Hooded Plover prepared in the 1990s. It addresses one of the key threats and ensures that the most important areas for Hooded Plover breeding are fully protected. In the longer term, the Management Plan will ensure that use of the reserve balances the conservation of Hooded Plovers and migratory birds with the range of uses, not just commercial horse training.

The Belfast Coastal Reserve is also internationally recognised as a nesting site for migrating shorebirds of international significance. How does this plan have due regard for the role that the reserve plays in this regard?

Migratory birds that are listed under international agreements are considered matters of national environment significance under the EPBC Act, and it is an offence to cause significant impact to these species without approval.

As is the case with the Hooded Plover, the special conditions that will apply to the commercial horse training licence have been established with reference to the responsibilities under the EPBC Act to protect known sites for migrating shorebirds of international significance. These conditions include excluding access to areas with known sites.

Commercial horse training has until now been unregulated so this licence and the special conditions have greatly strengthened the Government's ability to ensure the industry is complying with responsibilities under the EPBC Act.

It is worth noting that other activities can also disturb these birds. The Coastal Management Plan will provide an opportunity to canvass options to reduce the impact of people, vehicles and dogs as well as horses.

How is compliance with the new licence going to be monitored?

The relevant land manager will be responsible for monitoring the compliance of horse trainers with the licence conditions. Parks Victoria has already increased its monitoring of the land they manage within the Belfast Coastal Reserves.

The Warrnambool Racing Club will also be responsible for ensuring horse trainers comply with the conditions of the licence.

What consultation has been involved in reaching this decision?

The announcement follows extensive consultation between Victorian Government agencies and the Shire of Moyne, City of Warrnambool, traditional owners, Warrnambool Racing Club, South West Owners Trainers and Riders Association as well as community and environmental groups such as Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group.

The Government has aimed to  reach a fair outcome that reflects the feedback from this consultation with key stakeholders.

What will the Coastal Management Plan achieve over and above the new licence arrangement?

The development of the coastal management plan will include a comprehensive program of community consultation throughout next year, and is expected to be finalised by mid-2018.

While the licensing regime will address the pressing short-term issues, the aim of the coastal

management plan is to establish a sustainable, long-term framework for managing the area.

How will hooded plover sites be protected?

Some beaches that have existing Hooded Plover sites will not be available for horse training. For those beaches that will be available for horse training and do have Hooded Plovers, the nesting sites are roped off, signs have been erected and there is increased compliance activity being provided by Parks Victoria. Under the conditions of the licence, horses are to avoid all marked Hooded Plover nesting sites and to reduce speed to a walk within 50 metres of nest sites and walk only by the water's edge when passing nest sites.

In addition, beach user groups have been briefed about the requirements to protect Hooded Plovers.

Some beaches that have existing Hooded Plover sites will not be available for horse training. For those beaches that will be available for horse training and do have Hooded Plovers, the nesting sites are roped off, signs have been erected and there is increased compliance activity being provided by Parks Victoria. Under the conditions of the licence, horses are to avoid all marked Hooded Plover nesting sites and to reduce speed to a walk within 50 metres of nest sites and walk only by the water's edge when passing nest sites.

In addition, beach user groups have been briefed about the requirements to protect Hooded Plovers.

How will cultural heritage be protected?

The Warrnambool Race Club is developing a Cultural Heritage Management Plan for Levy's Beach. Other beaches with sites of significance will be precluded from horse training.

What does thoroughbred racing and training contribute to the Western District and Wimmera communities?

Country racing is part of the social fabric of regional Victorian communities. Thoroughbred racing in the Western District and Wimmera communities delivers an annual economic benefit of over $97 million and generates more than 950 full-time equivalent jobs and over 4,500 part-time and volunteer positions.

How significant is the thoroughbred racing industry in Warrnambool?

Warrnambool is a vital regional centre for racing and horse training in South West Victoria. There are 50 trainers and over 300 horses based at the Warrnambool Racing Club.

The Warrnambool Racing Club conducts 20 meetings per year, including Australia's largest and most successful annual regional racing carnival over three days in May.

Why is the Government interested in the issue of horse training on beaches?

The Government is committed to a viable country racing industry and to work with our communities when issues of concern arise.

Horse trainers have used the beaches and sand dunes between Warrnambool and Port Fairy (Belfast Coastal Reserve) for many years for resistance training and rehabilitation. However, an escalation of commercial horse training on these beaches has led to concerns about public safety and impacts on cultural heritage and the environment, particularly hooded plovers.

The Government is aiming to resolve this issue in a way that balances and satisfies the needs of the community, environment and the thoroughbred racing industry.

EXISTING AND PROPOSED HORSE NUMBERS AT BEACHES

BELFAST COASTAL RESERVE
EXISTING AND PROPOSED HORSE NUMBERS AT BEACHES BELFAST COASTAL RESERVE