Caulfield Racecourse Reserve – Opportunity for Change

For those of you not aware, the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Trustees are preparing a “Strategic Land Management Plan for the racetrack and inner landscape portion of the Caulfield Racecourse” and are holding two community consultations which “will be an important part of “developing an overall vision and rationale for the Masterplan”

The notice appears on their recently revived website

Consultation details provided are

Glen Huntly Road Park Function Room (Corner Neerim and Booran Roads, Glen Huntly)

Wednesday 9th September 2015    7.00-9.00pm
Wednesday 16th September 2015  7.00-9.00pm

We urge residents to attend the community consultation sessions to express their views to the Trustees and to lodge written submissions with the Landscape Architects assisting the Trust’s development of the Strategic Land Management Plan.  Submissions should be lodged by Friday, 2nd October, 2015.  Download Trustee provided Submission lodgement details and sample questions

This is a unique opportunity that could bring about significant change.

The consultation arises from the September, 2015 Auditor General’s Performance Audit Report that was extremely critical of Trustee’s management of the reserve that had allowed racing to dominate the Reserve, exclude the public and become the public face of the Reserve. A reserve that was set aside by an 1858 Crown Grant, enacted in 1875, for three separate yet equal purposes, i.e. racecourse, public park and public recreation ground.

The end result of this mismanagement (both by the Trustees and State Government) is graphically and simply illustrated in the AG’s Report via an analysis of the usage areas with the Reserve.  Of the Reserve’s 54ha (valued at $2bn)

  • 11 hectares (20%) is under lease, from the Trust, for racing purposes (with Trust leasing income being at a “peppercorn rate” (ie. $170K pa) which is generally returned to the racing industry for racing related projects and
  • 37 hectares (69%) is used for racing purposes without any clear legal entitlement or payment arrangement*, and
  • only 6 hectares (11%) is available as open space for the potential use of the community.   Such a basic inequity in reserve usage is further exacerbated by the AG’s comments that the 6 ha comprises facilities, which although recently upgraded (in 2011 as a Ministerial condition of the ”Triangle Landswap”), that do not adequately meet the needs of community, are not easy to physically access and are subject to restricted usage times (not available on race or major event days, other days 9.45 a.m. to dusk).  On the other hand, such accessibility issues and time restrictions are not applicable to racing’s usage.

* In 1876, at the first Trustee’s meeting, the centre of the racecourse (also known as the “Flats”) was set aside for public usage. Within the context of the current racecourse, that area is estimated to be 25ha (since specific measurements are not publicly available, this “guesstimate” was provided by a surveyor) and comprises approximately half of the 37 ha (25ha – 6 ha = 19ha) used by racing without any legal entitlement or payment.   In terms of the “Flats” it has been consumed by training tracks (a clearly commercial activity, that is not essential to a racecourse) or in the case of 1.1 ha “Car Boot Village” which the 2011 landscaping plan identified as unrestricted public access area, has since been designated a restricted public access area.  While no rationale for re-designation is publicly available, a recent planning permit application noted that the “Car Boot Village” area has permits for future commercial activities.  These permits provide for the temporary installation of  private function facilities (ie. marquees, liquor service and toilet facilities) until 1 a.m.  365 days p.a. in the “Car Boot Village” area.

2011 Landscaping

Clearly, this inequitable distribution should be addressed, particularly in the light of the size of the land and it’s potential to meet the open space demands (especially for active sports) of the intensive developments in the surrounding area, ie.

  • Within Glen Eira (the least per capita open space in Metro Melbourne)
    • Caulfield Village Development – 2000+ dwellings
    • Monash University – currently 10,000 EFS (effective full-time students) to increase to 25,000 EFS and increased provision of student housing.
  • Within Stonnington (the second least per capita open space in Metro Melbourne)
    • 18 storey residential tower – Cnr. Tooronga and Dandenong Roads
    • 4-6 storey developments along Dandenong Road between Tooronga and Grange Roads

While GERA welcomes this initiative of the Trustees which, we have been advised will review usage of the entire (54 ha) reserve, we also have serious concerns re reports that racing is proposing night races which,

  • as per racing media reports will generate significant live broadcasting rights revenue from Asia and the Middle East but
  • does little for evening public park and recreation ground usage and also begs the question of why current public access to the reserve is not permitted after dusk whereas paid patrons are.

This is a unique opportunity that could bring about significant change and residents are urged to attend and views to the Trustees.

As, included in some of our previous posts, the following provides “food for thought”

In 1884, 9 years after the Restricted Crown Grant was formally enacted, a deputation from the Victorian Amateur Turf Club (VATC) was made to the Minister of Lands (Mr. Tucker) requesting Reserve management be transferred to the Club.

Mr. Tucker       “… to agree to the proposal of the club would be to limit to some extent the right of the public to use the ground for the purposes for which it was originally reserved – namely, for recreation and a public park. … The vicinity of the Caulfield Racecourse would no doubt soon be thickly populated, and the value of the reserve to the public would then be widely enhanced”.

 VATC                         “… permission might be granted to the public to go on the reserve”

 Mr. Tucker       “… thought the public ought not to have to ask for permission to go on a public reserve”.

Source: The Argus, 16/8/1884

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