Lack of transparency in the trustee board controlling Caulfield racecourse has Glen Eira council campaigning the state government for reform.
Glen Eira council’s new $100 mill budget “open space” strategy for local suburbs involves a major plan to increase public access to racecourse for recreational use, and to convert old parkland into better new facilities.
This has sparked a conflict of interest between the council and Melbourne Racing Club (MRC) whose intentions for 9-storey refurbishment become unattainable if racecourse is to be shared with public. MRC plans have been dismissed by the council as a “master plan to increase the commercial use of public land” in other words, labelling it a money making scheme.
Ultimately the state government has authority over this crown land and has given full control of racecourse operations to a selected reserve trustee board. Neil Pickering, Glen Eira mayor has referred to this board as an “old gentlemen’s club” that are “all connected to the MRC in one way or another”.
These claims are based on the board’s annual Report/financial Statements and meeting minutes closed public access. The day-to-day management of the Crown Land is in the control of the Melbourne Racing Club under lease from the Trustees, the terms of that lease are neither open for general viewing.
“Bias on trustee boards are a common issue”, Caulfield resident and Council Activist Kimberly Maxwell states. “The information needs to be public to ensure an equitable approach … more public input into decision making is vital”. Pickering shares Maxwell’s view, calling for community representation in the board in a news conference last Monday.
On the council agenda, it has been requested the Auditor General conduct a Performance Audit of the board, and that the state government investigate the board’s history, membership structure, responsibilities and current arrangement.
The success of the council’s plight requires political will and public pressure. Only with enough support will the government view this as a parliamentary issue worth dealing with.