Government inaction hurting Killarney Beach community

Australian Greens Senator Janet Rice was up at the crack of dawn to address protesters at Killarney Beach in southwest Victoria. Picture by J. Fawcett  28 Oct 2016

by Jenny Williams Fawcett  28 Oct. 2016

Senator Janet Rice of the Australian Greens party addressed protesters today at a blockade at Killarney in Victoria’ southwest saying three levels of government have the ability to stop commercial racehorse training on Killarney’s beaches and Belfast Coastal Reserve .

“There is Legislation in place that could end this” Senator Rice said.

“We have Federal Legislation to protect the birds and the beaches, we have got State Legislation to protect them, and we have local government. 

“Its a matter for all levels of Government to step up to the plate and enforce their own laws.

The Greens’ local candidate Thomas Campbell joined Senator Rice and protesters at Killarney Beach in fight against commercial racehorse training on beaches. Picture by J. Fawcett 28 Oct 2016

Senator Rice joined the Belfast Coastal Reserve Group (BCRAG) at the Blockade at Killarney’s Boat Ramp, saying government action to stop commercial racehorse training along Killarney’s beaches would give more certainty to the local racehorse industry:

“There is also the matter of giving security to the racing industry as well.

“They need to have their proper facilities where training is going on that is not in conflict with the beaches, the people and the birds”.

Killarney community in southwest Vic protesting for protection of Hooded Plovers from commercial racehorse training. Picture by J. Fawcett 28 Oct 2016

Whilst there is legislation in place to protect the hooded plover, it seems there are no actual regulations to protect the 20kms of coastal spit between the port towns of Warrnambool and Port Fairy on the western edge of the Great Ocean Road tourist coast.

Senator Rice however says three levels of government have the ability to address community concerns by acting on existing legislation.

“They could put a stop to it now,” says Senator Rice.

Bill Yates of BCRAG meets with Senator Janet Rice of Australian Greens at Killarney Beach to protest racehorse training in protected environment. picture by J. Fawcett 28 Oct. 2016

BCRAG president Bill Yates of Killarney says the group formed the blockade  to make a statement about the commercialization of racehorse training on local beaches and protected environments.

“Our beaches have been taken in large numbers” Bill Yates says.

“Governments have had their chance to do something about this, to fix this. We want the horses off the beach.

“Look it up on a map. This is a tiny little 20k strip of coast, compared to thousands of adjoining acres of cleared land more suitable for racehorse training’.

Mr Yates said the community group was formed following a surge in racehorses along Killarney’s beach following a ban by nearby Warrnambool City Council.

“For over 12 months we have been in meeting with the Moyne Shire, DELWP, Parks Victoria, the Warrnambool Council.

“Nothing has changed, the racehorses are still training here”.

It is the surge in commercial racehorse training that is damaging the coastal environment and placing protected Hooded plovers at risk says Mr Yates.

 “Land managers have been dragging their heels,” says Mr Yates.

“This is about the Hooded Plovers, who are in the top 20 on the Commissioner’s list for endangered species in Australia.

“18 months ago there was a massive increase in racehorse training along our beaches, part of a bigger problem right along the coast to Warrnambool.

“An intervention by Aboriginal Victoria resulted in a ban at Warrnambool due to ancient cultural sites, so the racehorses have instead landed on our beaches.”

Senator Janet Rice met with Killarney resident and BCRAG member Shane Howard, who is fighting for protection for Killarney’s beaches and protected species.  Picture by J. Fawcett  28 OCt 2016.

Music legend and Member of the Order of Australia recipient Shane Howard says he never thought the day would come when he would have to fight so hard for his own country.

“I have spoken up for culture, and environments right across Australia over many years,” says Mr Howard.

“I never thought it would be at Killarney, in my own backyard.

In 2016 Shane Howard was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in recognition to his contribution to the performing arts as singer, as songwriter and guitarist to the recording industry  and to Indigenous Australian musicians.

Killarney beach and the Belfast Coastal Reserve are home to significant Indigenous cultural sites which are entitled to protection Mr Howard says.

Killarney community is protesting racehorse training along protected environments. Picture by J. Fawcett  28 Oct. 2016

Shane Howard and BCRAG are calling on land managers at local, State and Federal levels to act to protect Killarney Beach and the Belfast Coastal Reserve, which was gazette as early as 1861.

“The land managers need to grow a spine, step up to the plate and protect these places,” Shane Howard said at the Killarney blockade.

“There is no real plan here, the only solution that the local council have and land managers like DEWLP have, is to keep relocating racehorse training further and further along the beaches.

“Where does it stop?

“There is no plan about numbers, or restrictions.

“The Belfast Coastal Reserve and Killarney beach deserve protection.

“The little hooded plover can’t wait, it can’t relocate, but the horses can.”

Commercial training of racehorses at Killarney Beach and on the Belfast Coastal Reserve is drawing community criticism but support from racing fraternity. Picture by J. Fawcett  28 Oct. 2016.

Racing Minister and State MP the Hon. Martin Pakula recently defended trainer Darren Weir after Howard ‘singled’ out Weir  for dividing the local community .

“I don’t see it as a negative that Darren Weir runs a commercial enterprise if his success means that the racing industry delivers more jobs and more economic activity to the south-west,”

“The resolution of this issue is going to require a bit of give and take from all sides “. (Martin Pakula in SMH  25 OCt 2016, by Anthony Brady and Patrick Bartley)

Shane Howard outed Weir for dividing the local community in the debate over commercial racehorse training on public beaches:

“Darren Weir deserves to be mentioned and singled out for what he has done to this community, dividing it, coming in here over the past 12 to 18 months,” Howard said.

“I don’t care how many Melbourne Cups he wins, Bart Cummings won a string of them and he never went on the beaches, it’s not necessary”. (Howard, in The Standard,Horse-racing beach stoush’ by Anthony Brady 25 Oct 2016).

Senator Rice meet with BCRAG at Killarney to view racehorse training problem. Picture by J. Fawcett  28 Oct 2016.

The annual Killarney Triathalon event held this coming weekend also received no consultation about racehorse training along the beach, according to event director Clair Farrer of the Warrnambool Tri Club:

“We certainly hope that it (racehorse training) will not impact our events  this weekend, but we won’t have any clarity on this until the day” Ms Farrer says.

“The Killarney Tri has been running on this weekend for years

“We have a permit from Moyne Shire Council and Vic Police, but we have not had any correspondence from  Moyne Shire Council in regard to the horse trainers.”

Hooded Plovers center largely in debate over commercial racehorse training on protected beaches.

BCRAG was formed in response to a surge in commercial racehorses training on Killarney beach following a ban at nearby Warrnambool.

Bill Yates of BCRAG says the blockade and beach protest was not aimed at recreational riders and users, as Parks Victoria could work with local groups to form protection guidelines.

Its all about the beaches, coastal environment and protected species Mr Yates says.

“Beaches are not for commercial activities”

“We have had erosion here in this area to the sand-dunes, but that is where they want to train the horses, in the soft sand. But that’s not helping.

“There is a whole host of issues.

“There is a human toll here, a risk to human life.

“This is a main public beach, its attached to a tourism caravan park.

“You have children down here, local people, others visiting the beach.

“The human risk is as a great as the environmental risk”.

Protestors at Killarney Brocade are bemused by government inaction. picture by J. Fawcett  28 Oct. 2016

Shane Howard says BCRAG  is calling on land managers to act:

“Lily D’Ambrosis, the State Environment Minister – you are missing in action.

“Its time to step up to the plate.

“You can’t just keep relocating racehorses round this reserve and these beaches.

“It is 19th century thinking , just like the commons enclosures that destroyed communities in the 19th century’.

Its time to give some security to the Hooded plover, its time to save our beaches’.

The Killarney  blockade was not aimed at recreational riders and users but is about the commercial racehorse industry using public beaches as training grounds according to Mr Yates.

Senator Janet Rice at Killarney Blockade. 28 Oct. 2016 picture by J. Fawcett

“We are not anti-racing, that is not our agenda,” says Bill Yates of BCRAG.

“We acknowledge that racing brings a lot of economic value to a region.

“And that a lot of people love their racing.

“We all have friends who love their racing.

“What needs to happen though is that the Racing Minister needs to invest some money in the infrastructure at Warrnambool in particular, to give the racing industry certainty, and they can look forward to a bright future.

“They can’t just depend on the public beaches and reserves for their future.

That is not a business plan”.

Senator Rice spoke with a trainer yesterday at The Basin near Killarney who said they are not wanting a fight, just a resolution. Picture by J. Fawcett 28 Oct. 2016 (Logos removed from image).

Greens senator Janet Rice echoed the sentiment saying Government needs to provide certainty to the racing industry through local investment in purpose built facilities.

By acting on existing legislation, government can put an end to community distress and protect the 20 km strip between Port Fairy and Warrnambool on Victoria’s great southwest coast.

“They could put a stop to it now.”




Australia’s leading horse trainer knew he’d be taking on the world. He didn’t imagine his Melbourne Cup campaign would also be stalked by a beachcombing bird, Bob Brown and that rarely seen but oft-cited totem of conservation warriors, the Orange-Bellied Parrot. (by Chip Le Grand, The Australian, 29 Oct. 2019)

BCRAG twitter campaign  #savekillarneybeach

BCRAG PETITION    to Minister for Environment and Member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly Lily D’Ambrosio

Killarney Blockade. South West Victoria. Picture by J. Fawcett  28 Oct 2016

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