A newly formed Ballarat coalition pushing for the closure of the city’s greyhound racing track does not have the support of the state government.
During a tumultuous period for the controversial sport, the Ballarat Coalition Against Greyhound Racing held a small but strong protest in Sturt Street on Saturday, urging the state government to retract its commitment to a $170,000 facilities upgrade at the club this year.
NSW Premier Mike Baird’s backflip on the industry wide ban in NSW has not stopped campaigners from pledging to shut the industry down “shire by shire”.
The racing industry in the Central Highlands region generates more than $96 million for the Victorian economy and helps sustain more than 950 full-time equivalent jobs in the region. But, Ballarat Coalition Against Greyhound Racing convenor Josh Drakeford said the group was intent on spreading public awareness about the “deathly nature” of the industry. The group is aiming to collect thousands of signatures on a petition which they will send to council in a bid to gain its support. The current aim is to petition the government to withdraw its upgrade commitment. While the group does not expect any immediate closure of the track, they hope if upgrades are not completed the opportunity for the club to grow will be significantly diminished.
“It is a step by step process,” Mr Drakeford said.
Racing minister Martin Pakula reiterated the government had no plans to ban greyhound racing or withdraw its commitment to upgrading the Ballarat track.
"We're investing in the Ballarat Greyhound Racing Club because it supports local jobs and delivers economic benefits to the community,” Mr Pakula said.
"The funding came from the Victorian Racing Industry Fund (VRIF) which returns unclaimed wagering dividends and on-course wagering taxes back to the racing industry."
He stressed Greyhound Racing Victoria, in conjunction with the state government, had already implemented a number of recommendations from Racing Integrity Commissioner Sal Perna’s report on allegations of live baiting and Chief Veterinary Officer Dr Charles Milne’s report on animal welfare. Mr Pakula recently opened a 50 kennel facility at Mount Mercer as part of GRV's Greyhound Adoption Program.
A Ballarat Greyhound Club spokesman said “everyone has the right to protest”.
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