About 50 to 60 people showed up for the Caulfield Racecourse Trustee Community Consultation evening. In short, it was a total farce and far from being the open and ‘progressive’ change that many residents hoped for. Here’s why –

  • The Melbourne Racing Club has already completed their own Master Plan for the racecourse and it is now sitting on the Minister’s desk, waiting for his rubber stamp. Hence, as Greg Sword later admitted, the Trustee’s version of a Land Management Plan may be a waste of time and money if the MRC trustees happen not to endorse it – or presumably, if the Minister decides to accept the MRC version.
  • After originally deciding not to split the audience into groups for the butcher paper exercise so common to trendy ‘consultations’, and to allow questions, it was decided on a straw vote, and after some ‘uncomfortable’ queries, to split into groups – with a fair amount of public disagreement. There was however a compromise of a ten minute Q and A with far from satisfactory answers. For example: Mr Patrick in his opening slides had stated that it ‘was a given’ that the fences and training would remain but later stated he would ‘consult’ with the MRC on these matters!
  • Most disappointing was that all questions of governance, risk management were deemed as ‘irrelevant’ to the evening. Hardly, we say since the Auditor General’s report specified these issues as central to determining the future of public use of the racecourse land.
  • Readers will also be interested to know that the Trustee decision to award the contract to Patricks was not done via a formal meeting, but via email – hence no need for minutes, and transparency! We must also assume that Lipshutz, Hyams and Esakoff were also privy to these emails but not a peep out of any of them!

Greg Sword’s final comments are of great concern. He several times stated that the Trustees basically have no control over the MRC. It would seem that the Auditor General has different ideas about the role and function of the Trustees, who are charged with the management of the reserve. The department has oversight of the trustees. Here are some extracts from the Auditor General’s report that clearly show the role of the trustees –

sections 17B and 17D (of the Crown Land Reserves Act) provide the trustees, with the approval of the minister, with the power to grant licences/leases, enter into tenancy arrangements, and to reach agreement to operate services and facilities

The Crown grant, clause 21, states ‘that no improvements shall be effected on the site by the said Club without first obtaining the approval of the trustees’. However, there is no documentary evidence that certain works undertaken in recent years were approved by the trustees

Section 13 of the Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 provides the trustees with the power to make regulations for the care, protection and management of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve with the approval of the Governor in Council. The Crown grant also allows trustees to create regulations over the reserve.

Finally, we reiterate, that if the Trustees were really that keen to receive input from the COMMUNITY, then why was it only sports clubs (via council), schools, and aged care facilities who were ‘invited’ to attend? Surely a decent advertisement in the Leader would not have gone astray? And since council is spruiking for the Trustees via their letters to sporting groups, it also would not have been amiss for council to place an announcement on their website – especially when council can write to sporting groups and state-

Caulfield Racecourse is Crown Land reserved for recreation and is the only significant opportunity to provide more sports grounds in Glen Eira.  It is assumed that any Club which intends to seek any increase in ground allocations at any time in the future will take part. A few years ago Council produced a concept plan of how sports grounds could be established on the Crown Land in the centre of the racecourse. The concept plan appears on page 10 of Council’s ‘Community Sport – Management of Grounds Policy’. The page is attached for your convenience.

Sadly both Council and the Trustees would appear to have a very limited definition of ‘community’.