We must save our beaches for future generations
THE recent controversy of commercial training of horses on Killarney beach has escalated and raises broader issues. It is becoming a farce.
Earlier this year, local Killarney resident, Bill Yates, raised concerns over the exponential escalation of commercial racehorse training on Killarney and other beaches. Despite what some say, this was a new phenomenon. There had always been Rundles trail rides, operating under permit, some small local trainers doing recouperative work and the odd recreational rider. They weren’t a problem.
I was stunned to see the scale of the impact the commercial horse training was having on our beaches. It’s like no man’s land. All ecology is destroyed in the path of the training horses.
Through Bill’s concern, a group of Killarney locals formed the Belfast Coastal Reserve Action Group. We naively thought that by pointing out our concerns to the relevant land managers – Moyne Shire Council, DELWP and Parks Victoria – they would advise the commercial horse trainers that they were breaking the law.
Instead, we were shocked to discover that not only would they not act to stop the inappropriate activities but that they sought to assist the commercial trainers to have a training facility on our local beaches. What became apparent was that there is no unified plan and no solid, enforceable, regulations to protect the Reserve, other than the State Wildlife Act and the Federal EPBC Act, to protect the vulnerable Hooded Plover.
Aboriginal Victoria has acted decisively to protect midden sites that were being destroyed by horses training in the dunes.
The Belfast Coastal Reserve, from Levys Point to Port Fairy, has very high environmental values and was gazetted as a reserve in the 1870s (one of the first in Australia). It’s a small remnant of once wild country that remains despite the ravages of colonisation. It is a haven for natural biodiversity and passive human recreation.
The Hooded Plover is listed as a vulnerable species in Victoria and BCR has the highest concentration of nesting sites in the State.
Commercial horse training is exactly that – it’s commercial. The only objective is to make money. No other commercial activity would be permitted on public land without appropriate regulations.
Racecourses are public land also, much like our beaches. It seems unfair that the commercial racing industry now want to extend their holdings to our beaches. Horses are for courses, not beaches.
The time has come to stand up for the Belfast Coastal Reserve. I was born and raised here in this country and if I do nothing else in my life, I will commit to trying to save it for future generations.
We are faced with the might of the racing industry but we must stand up for what is right. The land managers, those charged with the responsibility to protect this small natural habitat for humans and wildlife, have all caved in to the racing industry Goliath. That industry wishes to exploit the area for commercial gain and we, the ratepayers, are expected to subsidise it. It is a wrong at every level.
This area is home to a deep Aboriginal cultural history. Have we no self respect? Have we no conscience? Do we care for nothing else but money? Who will dare to stand up for these last remaining wild places? It’s just a little 20-kilometre stretch of natural coast and dunes, lovingly restored over the years by Coastcare and Landcare volunteers and others. Is it so much to ask, for its protection?
What has become apparent is the need for the Belfast Coastal Reserve to become a Coastal Park, with a clear set of unified regulations to protect the environment and regulate activities within the Park. Forty years of reports and recommendations have made this clear. The time has come to act.
Let’s show some common sense and save our beaches for human activities and conservation. It’s not a lot of land. It’s the least we can do.
Shane Howard, Killarney