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Adjournment: Caulfield Racecourse Reserve

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
22 February 2022

My adjournment matter tonight is for the Minister for Planning, and my ask is that the minister ensures that the Glen Eira council immediately receives all relevant planning documents that allowed the destruction of heritage trees and buildings at Caulfield Racecourse.

I was disappointed to hear that under the cover of Christmas Eve the minister—at the request of Melbourne Racing Club—approved the amendment for the redevelopment of the Caulfield Racecourse.

Caulfield Racecourse is set to be redeveloped into a new public recreation space, including much-needed green open space for Melbourne’s south.

However, following the approval of the amendment, 42 trees on the site were destroyed almost immediately, one of which was a pine grown from the seed of Gallipoli’s Lone Pine. The remaining trees—some more than 100 years old—are set to be removed soon.

While the racecourse was subject to local heritage protection, this was overridden when the planning amendment was approved, making it possible for the trees and other buildings on the site to be destroyed.

And while Heritage Victoria has since received a nomination for an interim protection order for the precinct, which has put a temporary stop on works at the site, the damage has already been done.

The community is rightly outraged at the loss of these much-loved heritage trees and at the actions of Melbourne Racing Club in pushing the minister to approve the amendment and authorise the works.

Because the minister has taken control of the redevelopment, there’s been no public exhibition of plans for the redevelopment. Even Glen Eira council has been totally cut out of the process and has not been able to see the new plans for the development.

In Glen Eira, open and green space is sorely needed. It has the second-least amount of open space of any Victorian council region. But now the council and community are worried that being shut out of the redevelopment process will prevent them from saving the existing trees and buildings on the site and will lead to the loss of precious local heritage.

It’s disappointing to so frequently hear stories exactly like this, where the minister has overridden council and community concerns and imposed his own vision onto a development, especially as this usually results in the loss of trees, green space or local heritage that the community is desperately trying to save.

Our councils should be part of every key planning decision for their local communities, not completely locked out of the process and unable to even see the relevant documentation.

I ask the minister to provide Glen Eira council with all relevant planning documents that allowed the destruction of heritage trees and buildings at Caulfield Racecourse.

Answered: 17 March 2022

The Caulfield Racecourse is one of the state’s major horse racing venues, hosting more than 140 events each year, attracting 500,000 visitors annually and contributing $175 million to the economy. 

On 19 December 2021, approved Amendment C229 to the Glen Eira Planning Scheme to facilitate the Melbourne Racing Club’s (MRC) renewal works to the Caulfield Racecourse. The works provide for landscaping, new horse areas, a new administration building, second internal track and lighting for night racing and other events. 

The timely delivery of the project will stimulate the Victorian economy and create investment opportunities, including an investment value of $138.5 million and creation of 116 long-term and 55 short-term jobs. 

The project’s approval is consistent with the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Land Management Plan, which was developed after extensive community consultation between early 2019 and April 2021. 

The MRC applied for and received land manager consents from the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Trust for the works in April, July and September 2021. 

The council was consulted in June 2021. Details about the project and intervention process, including documentation about the buildings and works proposed were provided to the council. The council requested to be retained as the responsible authority, provided written advice and feedback, and requested further consultation. 

Ultimately, further consultation with the council was not considered necessary as the views of the council were known and have been considered. Conditions of the planning scheme amendment incorporated document provide opportunity for the council to have further input on matters including landscaping, traffic and drainage.

 A construction management plan has been provided to the council. Further documents required by the planning scheme amendment incorporated document for council’s approval will be forwarded in due course. 

After careful heritage assessment it was determined that some mature and semi-mature trees could be removed. The area made available will provide for the accommodation of new horse and patron facilities, including contemporary day-stalls, a patron viewing area and staff facilities. 

Conditions of approval require the MRC to prepare a tree replacement strategy and landscaping to the satisfaction of the council, including new buffer planting and a memorial garden. 

The Heritage Council of Victoria applied an interim protection order to the racecourse on 27 January 2022, while a nomination for inclusion of the racecourse to the Victorian Heritage Register is considered. Exemptions and permits for works are required from Heritage Victoria until the determination of the nomination. 

Exemptions have been granted for a range of works that will continue at the racecourse.

HON RICHARD WYNNE MP

Minister for Planning

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Samantha Ratnam
Leader of the Victorian Greens
22 February 2022
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