Written on the 21 July 2011


MORE than $110 million has been committed by the State Government for various racing infrastructure projects across Queensland.

It includes $35.4 million to the Gold Coast Turf Club for a complete revamp of the course, flood mitigation and the installation of a synthetic training and racing track with tunnel access to the inside of the tracks.

It is understood the upgrade will deal with OHS concerns, significantly improving rider and horse safety.

Chairman Andrew Eggleston told Gold Coast Business News it is a good day for racing on the Gold Coast.

“It has been a long time coming but sometimes you have to jump up and down and rattle the cage to get things done and get the money. This will be great for new training tracks and to upgrade facilities, especially with wet weather,” he says.

Eggleston was this week fined $1500 for unseemly conduct by the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal for an a incident involving a security guard at a race meet on the Gold Coast in December 2011. He says the matter is now ‘dead and buried’. Eggleston has informed the board that he will not be available for re-election at the AGM in October.

“I can hang up my hat proudly for what has been accomplished at the club since I have been chairman, but it is now time for me to concentrate on family life and my other business,” says Eggleston, who was married two weeks ago.

As part of the Government's package, a further $10 million in compensation has been allocated for the loss of greyhounds at Parklands. It follows State Government infrastructure plans as part of the Health and Knowledge Precinct and also used to accommodate an athletes village should the Commonwealth Games bid be successful.

However Parklands Harness Racing is not expected to be awarded compensation and will shift its operation to Ipswich.

President Barry Grimsey claims the club is owed $50 million based on treasury modelling used to compensate the dogs.

“If you use the same formula, then we are owed $50 million plus,” he says.

“If the State Government can give money to Racing Queensland for upgrades across the state, where is our money to re-locate? If we were compensated, we could build a purpose-built track with facilities at somewhere like Pimpama. As it is we’ve got not money and no facilities and we can’t stay on the Gold Coast.”

Racing Queensland Limited (RQL) has welcomed the Bligh Government’s funding commitment available to fund infrastructure upgrades at Queensland race clubs particularly in regional and country areas.

RQL boss Bob Bentley says the funding allocation follows a revised Industry Infrastructure Plan put forward to State Government in December 2011.

“The Bligh Government announcement of another $20 million on top of the $80 million in redirected wagering tax as well as a provision of the $10 million in compensation for the loss of greyhounds at Parklands is incredibly welcomed,” he says.

“Subject to approvals, this means much needed work will start at a number of Queensland’s rundown racecourse facilities in a matter of weeks. RQL will work closely with all clubs affected to implement the development timetable and processes but we expect work will start at Mackay, Rockhampton, Cairns and Beaudesert first and the other courses to follow.

“The racing schedule will be designed to minimise disruption. For example, while Mackay is being redeveloped, extra races will be held in Townsville and vice versa.

“We will also work with the clubs to open up their racecourses to become facilities capable of being used more often for things such as conferences and other community events.

“This Plan is predicated on maximising the use of venues, helping the industry grow and creating jobs for Queenslanders. The aim is to rejuvenate industry infrastructure, secure the future and allow the industry to realise its full potential.”

Earlier this year, vested harness racing interests commenced Supreme Court legal action to stop the sale of Albion Park, a vital element to fund the full Industry Infrastructure Plan.

“Once the Supreme Court action is over, RQL will then be in a position to reassess funding priorities,” says Bentley.

Bentley also called on the Brisbane City Council to judge the Albion Park redevelopment plans on its merits.

“The majority of harness racing people want a new 1400 metre track at Deagon and some people conveniently forget that the greyhounds, who had a 50 per cent stake in Albion Park, also want out if a better alternative is available,” he says.

“Former Lord Mayor Campbell Newman said he supported development at Albion Park if it was primarily retained as a sports and recreation area and that flooding and traffic issues were addressed. RQL is confident Council will honour the former Lord Mayor’s words as our plans do fully comply with the Brisbane City Council’s own neighbourhood plan.”

Bentley says negotiations between clubs and RQL on equity partnership deals would still continue.

“We cannot hand over millions of dollars of government funding to individual clubs and walk away,” he says.

“Queensland taxpayers will demand, and deserve nothing less than full accountability for the $110 million committed by the State Government. These funds must be used as an investment to grow an industry that currently contributes $1.44 billion to Gross State Product and employs around 30,000 people.

“RQL has had feedback that many clubs prefer an equity relationship, as they see the value in the control body running the racing side of the business. The agreements then free up clubs to place greater focus on their members and driving revenue through non-race day activities.”

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Regional Economies Tim Mulherin says the funding will be provided immediately in the form of a $100 million loan from the Queensland Treasury Corporation. He says the revised Industry Infrastructure Plan will enable works to commence on projects regardless of the outcome of the Albion Park legal proceedings.

"It became clear that without action the broader racing industry would suffer as a result of these ongoing legal proceedings," he says.

"As a result, the Government has approved a revised Industry Infrastructure Plan submitted by Racing Queensland Limited that identifies major works on which the $110 million will be spent. The Queensland Government is backing the racing industry to ensure its growth into the future.

Mulherin said the $100 million loan would be repaid from redirection of 50 per cent of wagering tax over five years.

Revised Industry Infrastructure Plan

Deagon $39.9 million

Deagon will be converted to a modern dual purpose facility for greyhound and harness racing. This is a major project for the ongoing development of both codes. There will be the provision of a 1400 metre harness track and a one and two turn greyhound tracks. The provision of these tracks will be crucial to the survival of both codes and will also provide the greyhound code with a stand-alone on-track venue. (This cannot be provided at Albion Park due to the lack of area on the site.)

The greyhound and harness public amenity would consist of a back-to-back structure so that the greyhound racing tracks are not located inside of the harness racing track, as is the case at Albion Park. While the public facilities for greyhound and harness racing would be a back-to-back facility and co-¬located, the tracks would retain their own identity with first-class viewing of the racing available for both codes.
RQL will work with the thoroughbred trainers currently using Deagon to find a suitable alternative. Deagon does not have the space to accommodate because a new harness and greyhound facility as well as the Deagon Deviation does not leave room for thoroughbred training.

Plans to extend RQL headquarters and develop a new science centre are suspended until such times as the Albion Park court case is finalised.

Gold Coast $35.4 million

The plan provides for a complete revamp of the course proper, flood mitigation and the installation of a synthetic training and racing track with tunnel access to the inside of the tracks.

This major upgrade to the Gold Coast facility will deal with major OHS concerns, significantly improving rider and horse safety.

Beaudesert $7.27 million

The Beaudesert facility will receive a new jockey and official’s area, the existing drainage of the racetrack will be substantially improved and new fencing erected around the track. The tie-up area will receive a basic
upgrade and there will be new public facilities. A new sand track will be provided.

Cairns $1.96 million

The amounts allocated will be directed towards the upgrade of the track, the existing drainage system will be repaired and the current stables are to be renovated to an acceptable standard.

Townsville $6.34 million

RQL will consult with the Townsville Turf Club and Townsville Greyhounds on the priorities to be funded first.

Mackay $7.44 million

Allowance has been made for the upgrade and realignment of the racing and training tracks. Additional allowance has been made to repair the roads and car parks. The onsite infrastructure that is not workplace health and safety compliant will be demolished and asbestos will be safely removed from the site.

Public facilities and members areas will be upgraded to allow for the continuation of the facility as a TAB venue.

Rockhampton $1.6 million

New kennels and track infrastructure has been allowed for to enable the Rockhampton Greyhounds to be a TAB venue.

Country Racing $2.35 million

A large amount of this funding has already been spent to make urgent repairs resulting from the recent floods and to help country clubs with workplace health and safety issues.

Ipswich $30m

The $30 million redevelopment of Ipswich is on hold pending the outcome of the Supreme Court Action at Albion Park.

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