We feature an extract from this morning’s Jon Faine program where Cr Jim Magee was interviewed regarding the makeup of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Trustees and the potential conflicts of interest involved. The issue was also debated at last night’s council meeting which we will report on in a separate post. Suffice to say that both Pilling and Okotel in our view should hang their heads in shame for their performance on this matter!

Our many thanks to the resident who typed up the transcript for us!

FAINE: ….threw into doubt the future development of the Caulfield Racecourse. For years this has been a sore point  for the local community. It is a massive chunk of land. How best to use it. Councillor Jim Magee is a member of the Glen Eira council and last night there was a vote 4 – 2 in favour of a resolution to refer the redevelopment for further investigation. Cr Magee, good morning to you.

MAGEE: Good morning Jon

FAINE: why is this still being debated out in Caulfield?

MAGEE: Because it’s not sorted Jon. There are too many issues in Caulfield regarding the racecourse. One issue is that community use of community land within the centre of the racecourse and the second issue is the makeup of the Board of Trustees.

FAINE: the Board of Trustees of?

MAGEE: The Caulfield Racecourse Reserve. Well the board are made up of 15 members, 6 of whom are from the racing club, the Melbourne Racing Club, 6 are appointed by the State Government and 3 are appointed by Glen Eira Council. Now currently there are lease negotiations within the Trust, to lease for a 21 yer period, up to a 21 year period, the whole racecourse reserve to the Melbourne Racing Club. One of our issues is that 6 members of the club are actually on the board of Trustees who in fact are adjudicating the lease for the club – for which they are the committee.

FAINE: so, it’s not quite but nearly half the members of the Trustees board ..

MAGEE: yes, yes

FAINE: voting to lease to themselves in another entity a public asset.

MAGEE: yes, they are leasing to the club. Now we also know, we believe, that at least 2 of the government appointed trustees are also members of the Melbourne Racing Club.

FAINE: does that represent a conflict of interest then?

MAGEE: look, I believe it does represent a conflict of interest. I’m a past chairman of the board of Trustees and I raised issues at many meetings as a trustee chairman I asked the Trust to consider conflict of interest. The Trust wrote to the Vcitorian Government’s solicitors office and got advice from the government solicitor’s office on conflict of interest and he gave us advice and his advice is, it was very clear that there was a perceived conflict of interest.

FAINE: what are the terms of the lease being proposed between the Melbourne Racing Club and the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Trustees?

MAGEE: Jon, I can only speak on the past. I wrote in 2012 to the Premier asking for advice as to the, as the chair of the Trust, and I have concerns about conflict of interest, I –

FAINE: is it a commercial transaction?

MAGEE: Well at the moment we don’t know because I’ve been a feather duster, I’m no longer  on that trust , so I can only talk about what I was advocating at the time and what the trust was advocating for at the time. The main uses of the racecourse are commercial uses. There is a Tabaret on the racecourse. The Melbourne Racing Club, their offices,  their corporate offices are on the racecourse. Now they own 11 hotels which they administer from the racecourse. Now the Trust at the moment gets a return of around $80,000 a year for the whole racecourse reserve.

FAINE: $80,000? For all that land?

MAGEE: yes, and keep in mind the Tabaret that sits on that land I think took in 12 million dollars last year alone.

FAINE: so effectively the community is subsidising the Tabaret and 11 hotels run by a racing club that’s not paying a commercial rent.

MAGEE: and it’s all been conducted on Crown Land, land that belongs to you and me Jon.

FAINE: and yet the age of entitlement is over Jim!

MAGEE: look, I believe it is. But Jon there is a bigger, broader issue happening here. The centre of the racecourse , now the City of Glen Eira last year could not accommodate 20 sports teams. That’s over 200 children that we had to say to their clubs ‘you cannot play sport in the city of Glen Eira’ because we did not have enough grounds for them  to play on. The centre of the racecourse  there is locked up 15 MCG playing fields, 15. Imagine if we could open  up just 3 of them or 4 of them to soccer, footy, cricket . At the moment I invite anybody driving past the Caulfield racecourse around Glen Eira road, after 9.45  when the gates should be open to drive in and have a look at their public park. Now the racecourse was set aside – it is designated for racing, recreation and public park.

FAINE: isn’t there a lake in the middle?

MAGEE:  there is a lake there in the middle which is there to irrigate the racecourse. There’s a second lake which is a man made lake  which is bore. They’re all operated from bores, again to water the racecourse. Everything about the racecourse is about racing. The recreation and public park are non existent.

FAINE: no. they’ve got it stitched up.

MAGEE: yep. They’ve got it, yeah – your words.

FAINE: There’s two separate issues here. One is why aren’t they paying a commercial rent as opposed to getting a subsidy from the people who own it  which are the residents of the area.

MAGEE: yes, yes

FAINE: and if they are indeed as commercially sustainable and  viable as they say then why  do they need an $800,000 subsidy. And the second one is why can’t the land be more shared other than locked up?

MAGEE: Jon, no one at Glen Eira Council wants racing ever to finish at Caulfield. We’re not interested in training leaving Caulfield. What we’re asking for is a share of  the public open space. We’re asking that the MRC pay a commercial rate for the land that they’re renting. That can, commercial amount which would be held by the Trust can go  into developing sports fields and recreation in the centre of the racecourse. We share it. We all share it. And last night we called on the Minister to get involved –

FAINE: The state government minister?

MAGEE: The Minister Brian Smith

FAINE: the minister for Crown Lands. But the Minister for Racing of course is the Premier.

MAGEE: look, the Premier, it’s a hard gig for the Premier. He wears many many hats and he’s probably not totally over what’s happening at the racecourse. The local member for Caulfield David Southwick, we sat in his office, we talked about this. He was going to go down there, he was going to do this, he was going to do that and all he’s done so far is organise a fun run.   Now I don’t mean to be flippant in saying that but  that’s all he’s done.

FAINE: okay. Can you keep us posted? Let’s see what response you get and we will follow this one through. Councillor Jim Magee from Glen Eira Council.