10/07/2008 12:58:00 PM
SCONE is in danger of losing its status as Horse Capital of Australia unless there is a coordinated approach by all equine industry sectors toward infrastructure development.
This is the view of Scone Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Michael Johnsen, however this sentiment has angered a number of sections of the community including Upper Hunter Shire Mayor Barry Rose and horse breeders, who say it is nothing more than a storm in a tea cup.
“Scone’s reputation is clearly that of Horse Capital of Australia but, with significant infrastructure development for the equine industry, outside of Scone and the Upper Hunter, will we be able to legitimately claim that tag?,” Mr Johnsen said.
“Scone cannot just rely on the thoroughbred industry as a subset of the wider equine industry to justify its claim as the Horse Capital of Australia,” he said.
“All equine related groups, from thoroughbred breeders to pony club members, need to collaborate more effectively to lobby all levels of government for a more coordinated approach to planning and infrastructure development,” Mr Johnsen said.
The chamber’s concern was sparked by a report in The Scone Advocate on June 26 on the possibility that bloodstock companies and other businesses would look to the new Tamworth Equine Centre to stage events such as yearling sales.
“How far reaching will the loss of equine events and infrastructure go before interested parties in the industry, both professional and voluntary, get together as a team to preserve our reputation, the industry and its jobs?,” Mr Johnsen said.
“The economic benefits of attracting many people to Scone and the Upper Hunter, at all times of the year, are great. Probably not quantifiable, but, nevertheless, anecdotally, significant,” he said.
“Do we have to wait to see an economic downturn, loss of jobs and opportunities before we act?
“For many years Scone and the Upper Hunter has developed diversified industry and economic activity, we cannot afford to be complacent on this issue,” Mr Johnsen said.
However Cr Rose said the region was in no danger of losing its status as Australia’s undisputed Horse Capital.
“I am astounded that the board of the chamber would have sanctioned such a negative approach.
“The fact that Tamworth has a horse facility that cost $30 million is not going to make scrap of difference to us. Our region has the horses, the horse studs, the spelling properties, the mare properties, and the infrastructure for a thriving and diverse horse industry,” Cr Rose said.
“Moreover,the White Park Management and Development committee has already been working on a plan to redevelop facilities at White Park.
“It is not possible to provide each group on that committee with everything they wanted but the [council] general manager (Daryl Dutton) is now going through the wish list of the user groups and council will come up with a plan that will go a long way to ensuring future of White Park as a horse venue,” he said.
Cr Rose said the Upper Hunter was the epicentre of an internationally significant thoroughbred breeding industry that continued to grow from strength to strength even in spite of the Equine Influenza outbreak last season.
He said a significant proportion of the 1680 yearlings sold at the 2008 major sales for a gross of $168,955,000 were bred in the Upper Hunter or by Upper Hunter based stallions such as Arrowfield’s Redoute’s Choice, and noted that international demand for thoroughbreds bred in the region was extremely strong.
Cr Rose said while Tamworth would boast a showpiece equestrian complex, the horse industry was centred in the Upper Hunter, which was home not only to leading thoroughbred nurseries but also to the Australian Stock Horse Society and a range of other equestrian groups.
He pointed to the diversity of equestrian pursuits thriving in the Upper Hunter with pony club, dressage, showjumping, campdrafting and rodeo, polo and polocrosse among them, as well as a range of ancillary businesses and equestrian professionals such as horse breakers and trainers, saddlers, farriers, and renowned veterinary facilities as well as the Equestrian Studies centre at TAFE.
Hunter Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association president Oliver Tait said the region was firmly established among the world’s top three premier thoroughbred breeding regions and continued development and infrastructure would ensure future growth.
“What Tamworth has showed us that with effective lobbying and with government and private enterprise working together, that large infrastructure projects which can support local industries are achievable,” Mr Tait said.