Turf War: Ipswich club hits back at Racing Queensland
The Queensland Times – By Andrew Korner
THE IPSWICH Turf Club has locked horns with Racing Queensland following the announcement of changes to redevelopment plans for the Bundamba track.
Approved by Ipswich City Council in May 2018 as part of the original upgrade project, the replacement of decades-old racehorse tie-up stalls was seen as a key aspect of the project, which includes construction of a new function centre, track upgrades and a new car park.
Earlier this week, however, Racing Queensland CEO Brendan Parnell released a statement saying that due to a cost blow-out on the project, the new stalls could not be accommodated in the budget, which has increased from $13 million to $19 million.
Mr Parnell cited the cost of remediation of the course proper, in addition to an unforeseen increase in earthworks, as reason for the increase in costs.
Ipswich Turf Club chairman Wayne Patch reacted defiantly to the news, demanding that the State Government simply deliver on what it promised and approved in 2017.
“The handling of this project by RQ has been a debacle since day one, Mr Patch said.
“The Ipswich Turf Club has had little or no influence over the project and has not been provided meaningful detail on budgets, expenditures or timeliness on the project except to be told that the budget has been overspent.
“The RQ numbers simply don’t add up. This is public money and someone needs to forensically examine what the real costs and budgets are and why the project has already run years over time and millions over budget.”
Racing Queensland said since work began last year, the emergence of soil contaminants had significantly impacted the project, with contractors forced to remove 10-times the amount of earthworks originally forecast.
The estimated cost of building new stalls is $3.2 million.
If the existing stalls are not demolished as per the original plan, it could affect the positioning of the planned new car park, which was going to be constructed alongside the new function centre.
Mr Parnell said the construction of a new car park would proceed, “in consultation with the turf club”.
“Racing Queensland has obligations to the entire industry, and while our infrastructure funds remain limited, we need to carefully balance our competing priorities and in this instance it is the course proper,” Mr Parnell said.
Racing Queensland says the additional funding will cater for the increased civil works to complete the building and track remediation following a recent geotechnical engineering report and irrigation audit.
The first step will be to replace irrigation infrastruture.
Mr Patch rejected criticism of the track, which he said was no worse now than it was in 2017 when the project was first announced.
Member for Bundamba Jo-Ann Miller has pledged her support to the Ipswich Turf Club to have the decision reversed and proceed with the original plan.
Ms Miller said she would begin the process of a Right To Information request for all documents in relation to the upgrade that was agreed upon by Racing Queensland.
“Racing Queensland has gone back on its commitment,” Ms Miller said.
“It is an absolute retrograde step for the turf club, which has been very patient over the years in terms of waiting for its turn for funding.”
Racing Minister Stirling Hinchliffe said he was supportive of Racing Queensland’s course of action.
“An improved track has to be front and centre of this expanded redevelopment of the club,” he said.
“This is about ensuring the safety of horses and jockeys and creating a more reliable racing surface for the benefit of all participants and the club itself.”
Ipswich MP Jennifer Howard said while she supported any move to make the track safer, she had questions about delays and costs of the project.
“I want this project to be a priority for Racing Queensland,” she said.
“We have waited decades for this funding and I was proud as a newly elected member to have secured it.
“I want to commend the Ipswich Turf Club manager Brett Kitching, chairman Wayne Patch and the entire board for their hard work in getting this funding commitment from Racing Queensland and for their patience over the past two and a half years.”
The change of plans comes as a blow to Ipswich racing fans only a month away from the city’s biggest racing and social event of the year, The Ipswich Cup.
The state’s biggest social race day will proceed as normal on June 15, with organisers working carefully around the fenced off construction areas with surprisingly little disruption to the best vantage points.