Proposals to expand and redevelop the Wyong Race Club have created an uncertain future for several large community organisations who are based on Race Club land, according to Central Coast Councillors Doug Vincent and Kyle MacGregor.
In August Wyong Race Club announced a $6 million track and training master plan.
Councillors adopted a motion introduced by Clr Vincent and Clr MacGregor at their ordinary meeting on Monday, October 29, to request CEO Gary Murphy hold a master planning workshop “to review historical information and establish a community-focused vision for the future of Baker Park and the race course area in Wyong”.
Clr Kyle MacGregor said he believed the precinct around the race track and Baker Park was “one of the most significant recreational facilities for the region.
“It was a major Council election issue in the Wyong ward in 2017, I had been approached before the election by community members and groups who were fearful for the future of the area,” MacGregor said.
Central Coast Volunteer Rescue Squad and Central Coast Poultry Club are two major community organisations that will be required to leave their long-term homes within the Race Club site.
Anthony Bliim, Captain of Central Coast Volunteer Rescue Squad, addressed the Council meeting.
He said the squad was formed in 1975 and had grown on the site but Wyong Race Club had terminated its lease.
“Our primary role is rescue, such as road crash, industrial accidents, domestic rescues and animal rescue,” Bliim said.
“We also provide community awareness about road safety, with programmes such as Driver Reviver,” he said.
“In 1980 a 25 year lease was negotiated with the Wyong and District Agricultural Association for a parcel of community land fronting onto Rose St Wyong with any building to remain the property of the Volunteer Rescue Squad.
“With community donations we proceeded to construct the building to house vehicles and equipment and to provide training facilities for its volunteer members.
“As the building was funded by donations from the community of Wyong Shire it was decided to design the facility to allow for community use with separate access to meeting rooms, kitchen and toilets.
“Some of the community groups that have in the past or still use the facility are, the Multiple Sclerosis society, Wyong Quilters Club, Central Coast Quilters, Lions Club of Wyong, Men’s Support groups, WICEN to name a few.
“It has also been used as an emergency evacuation centre in the 1994 bushfires, and Wyong Council itself has in the past used the facility to service its staff vehicles.
“In 2016 the Volunteer Rescue Squad approached Wyong Race Club for approval to allow a training company to use our training rooms to raise funds.
“It was then discovered that with the multiple changes of membership to both the squad and the Agricultural Society that the lease was misplaced and forgotten about and it had in fact expired in 2004.
“In December 2017 a new licence deed for 12 months was presented to the Volunteer Rescue Squad by Wyong Race Club which was a very poor outcome for us.
“The Volunteer Rescue Squad felt obliged to sign this deed or else occupation of our building would be terminated.
“This 12 month extension is about to expire and our organisation faces the overwhelming task of finding and funding a new headquarters location as well as gathering the resources and volunteer man-hours needed to move the facilities and equipment.
“We always believed that the land on which our building is located was for community use and over the past 40-plus years of our tenancy we believe we have provided a valuable community service both as a primary accredited rescue organisation and by providing a venue for other community services to gather and conduct their voluntary support services.
“As such we seek clarification as to the history of the land ownership on which the racecourse occupies.
“We would also be interested in the planning limitations and permitted usage of this land.
“In saying this it should be noted that our organisation would fully support the review into the community use of this land,” he said.
Speaking after the meeting, Clr Doug Vincent said the Wyong race course was originally the agricultural showground and the first show took place in 1905.
The land was believed to have been donated by Warner who was one of the first non-Indigenous land owners in the area.
A race track was relocated from Tuggerah to the area in 1915 and over the next 80 years control of the lands had fluctuated between the Showground Committee and the Race Club.
The Showground Committee slowly wound down over the decades and by the 1990s the land came into the possession of the Wyong Race Club.
The Race Club and Baker Park were listed as one of the former Wyong Council’s iconic sites with bonus height and floor space arrangements on offer for developers.
According to Clr Vincent, since the 1990s, the tenure of the netball association, tennis club, Wyong pool, and “all the clubs at the race track” has been uncertain.
“Poultry has been shown at that location since 1904 and the Poultry Club, the biggest outside of the major cities, was encouraged by former Race Club committees to expand and invest in its facilities.
“The Council has its role to play to consider the future master planning of the site.
“For the past 100 years the Baker Park and showground site have been utilised by the community for many activities such a regional agricultural shows, sporting events, and agricultural research,” he said.
“It has been an iconic community hub that was donated to the community by one of the founding landowners of the area.
“I hope the current Council can create a master plan for the area that accommodates the interests of the historical community groups that have used the site for a century.”
Wyong Poultry Club amalgamated with the Gosford club to become the Central Coast Poultry Club in 1980 andcontributes at least $500,000 to the local economy each year.
“It supports around 2500 high school students each year who are involved in agriculture, it has programs that go into schools and nursing homes.
“The Poultry Club had never had a lease until a year ago but it has been aware since 2009 of plans to develop the race course land.
“It appears the Race Club Committee, at that time, told the Poultry Club they would be compensated if they had to relocate but nothing was put in writing.
Wyong Race Club CEO, David Jewell, said: “I am aware there was an agenda item about Baker Park, someone from Rescue Services made some comments.”
When asked whether the proposed $6 million master plan would impact on any current tenants, Jewell said: “Yes”.
He said: “Let’s be fair, they have been on notice for the three years we have been doing plans and their licence expires on November 30 and they were all given notice three months ago,” Jewell said.
“There is a due process we are working through that they are well aware of,” he said.
“We have been talking to various parties for three years but I don’t really want to get into detail until I know what has been said.
“They didn’t have lease until I put them on a one year rolling lease three years ago so the buildings should not be there.”
Wyong Race Club’s $6 million Track and Training Master Plan includes an all-weather training track to support an increase in the training capacity by 30 per cent over the next couple of years.
The Club is planning to increase its training capacity from 220 to around 300 horses, Jewell said when announcing the plans in August.
He said the Master Plan had been in the pipeline for some time with the Board recently signing off on all aspects before the plan was shared with Racing NSW and local trainers.
Stabling developments are to be funded by the Club and would start in 2018 but the Club needed to make application to Racing NSW for financial support to build the all-weather track and will talk to Racing NSW further about its longer term stabling plans.
“While we have had initial discussions with Racing NSW CEO Peter V’landys that were very positive, there is still a lot of work to be undertaken over the next couple of months before detailed engineering drawings and costings for the new track are able to be finalised and that project can be approved ” he said.
“Wyong is already a significant Provincial training centre providing around 2200 raceday starters each season, the second highest total of runners of any of the NSW Provincial tracks.”
Agenda item 6.2, Oct 29
Central Coast Council ordinary meeting
Interview, Oct 30
Doug Vincent, Central Coast Council
Media release, Aug 3
Interview, Oct 30
David Jewell, Wyong Race Club
Jackie Pearson, journalist