Large parcels of land are set to be freed up after the NSW government made the shock announcement to shut down greyhound racing following evidence of systemic animal cruelty in the industry.
As racing operators struggle to come to grips with the decision, landowners will now have to consider alternative uses for the race tracks, some of which are as big as 30 hectares and close to residential development.
The government has confirmed it would not be turning race tracks situated on public Crown land – in particular the high-profile Wentworth Park track in the Sydney CBD – into commercial or residential development sites, but there are other privately owned tracks that could now be attractive to developers hungry for land suitable for housing projects. NSW has a shortage of housing supply.
“Wentworth Park is 100 per cent Crown land. There will be no residential and commercial use [for the track],” a spokesman for Premier Mike Baird said. “It would be open space and [for] community use.”
The government also said in a statement the transition to wind down the industry over the next 12 months would ensure race tracks be used for “open public space, alternative sporting facilities or other community use”.
A welfare plan for existing greyhounds and an adjustment package for industry participants would also be provided.
The Wentworth Park race track in the suburb of Ultimo is the most well-known of the 40 tracks in NSW and also one of Sydney’s prime parcels of land. The facility shares space with the park’s common green area and is just outside the boundary of NSW’s highly touted Bays Precinct Transformation Program.
Urbangrowth NSW confirmed it has no current plans to connect the track into the the Bays Market District. It will only connect the common green.
Returning the track to public use was greatly welcomed by the City of Sydney Council which has long campaigned for the track to be removed. Like the NSW government, it did not want to see the track used for housing or retailing, it said in a Bays Precinct submission.
“Finally the government has put an end to this cruel and bloodthirsty sport,” Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore said.
“Now it’s time to return Wentworth Park to the City of Sydney as urgently needed open space for sports and recreation for the fast growing communities of Pyrmont, Ultimo and the Bays Precinct.”
But the fate of other sites are in question.
The 30-hectare Richmond greyhound racing track is privately owned by the Richmond Race Club and has been used to run racing businesses since 1912. It is close to the booming northwest development corridor including Box Hill, Rouse Hill and Penrith a little further away.
Chinese developers Poly (Australia) Real Estate and Chiwayland recently announced house and apartment developments in Penrith.
“We are shocked at the news. We have been awaiting the report some 18 months and we were under the impression there will be strong recommendations from the report, but to find out the industry will be closed down has left us shocked,” general manager Brad Adam said.
“It is just too early to make decisions. First thought is we have a sizeable piece of land with a function centre and liquor license and we need to decide how to use it best.”
“We haven’t considered [selling it for development] because it [has] historically … always been a racing track.”
The 10-hectare Bulli race track is owned by the Wollongong City Council, which has no immediate plans to develop it.
“As far as we are concerned these are community spaces,” Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said.
“At this stage [selling it for development] won’t be anywhere on our radar. The issue is to intensify its usage for the community.”
Community use includes markets and other festivals, he said.
The Appin Way race track in southwest Sydney is also privately owned and is close to Camden house and land developments.
Maitland and Dapto, both near the Sydney and Wollongong respectively, are owned by horticulture associations.
NSW is the first Australian state to ban greyhound racing after the “Special Commission of Inquiry into the Greyhound Racing Industry in NSW” found at least half of all greyhounds bred to race were killed in the past 12 years because they were deemed uncompetitive.
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