After almost six years, Glen Eira Council and the Melbourne Racing Club still disagree over the shared use of Caulfield Racecourse Reserve.
Glen Eira Council and the Melbourne Racing Club are continuing negotiations, regarding the fair use of Caulfield Racecourse Reserve for both the public and the racing industry. Both parties are hoping that a resolution will occur within months.
The reserve was deemed publicly owned Crown land in 1885 when Queen Victoria established the ‘Crown Grant’, permanently reserving the land for the joint purposes of a “racecourse, public recreation ground and Public Park” for Caulfield citizens.
The council wants maximum active and passive activities to be facilitated at all times, reveals Glen Eira Councillor, Cheryl Forge. This includes providing a playground, barbecue area, garden beds, jogging paths and at least one sports oval. The council’s submission to the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council included a document entitled ‘Getting the Balance Right’, stipulating other requests for the reserve.
The MRC is happy for the reserve to be used for passive recreation, according to a source from the MRC who would prefer to remain anonymous. However, the MRC believe active recreation will clash with horse training, and potentially be very dangerous.
If an oval is allowed in the middle of the reserve, the MRC expect the council will gain too much control over the land, obliterating the racing industry altogether.
“Our racing product will deteriorate,” says the MRC source. Furthermore, “the council has actually been profiting off selling lots of Caulfield land over the past ten years. Now they want to keep the racecourse for free,” says the MRC source.
The Government should ensure that “the Board of Trustees operates in an open and transparent manner … in accordance with the terms of the Grant,” states a recommendation from the Upper House Select Committee on Public Lands.
The council claims the MRC has always been the beneficiary of the land, using it as a racecourse, for horse training, and commercial events. “The club have been self-centred,” says Cr Forge. Furthermore, several horse training tracks block people from walking across the reserve, according to council.
The council believes the racing industry limits the amount of public use of the reserve. “The public have been pushed out by the dominating industry and have still not established the right to use the land,” Cr Forge maintains. However, the provision of public access to the reserve is more than adequate, according to MRC source.
If an agreement isn’t reached, the Minister for Planning will make the decision. “Ultimately, it’s a matter for the state,” says the Public Land Consultancy founder, David Gabriel-Jones.
The council has consulted the community, and generally, residents are content with how Caulfield Racecourse Reserve is used, says the MRC source. The club wants the community to be a part decision-making. “We do not want to be the bully,” maintains the MRC source.
A survey of 42 respondents to help determine the popularity of public space
*Respondents are from various suburbs in the Eastern suburbs, Melbourne, Victoria.
*Respondents are aged between 14-40
*Answer relating to public parks as well as ovals, in the suburban location of the respondent