Flogging a dead horse

Representatives of the Ranges Equine Industry Network gather in protest outside last Wednesday's council meeting.

Representatives of the Ranges Equine Industry Network gather in protest outside last Wednesday's council meeting.

Hope for the proposed multi-million dollar equine centre in Macedon Ranges now hinges on private or state government investment.

Macedon Ranges Council withdrew support for the project at a special council meeting last week when a rescission motion from Cr Roger Jukes failed to reverse an earlier 8-1 vote to do so.

"The issue is about why this is a bad motion. There are contradictions and there has been a lack of community consultation and transparency which are two big issues and cannot be overlooked," Cr Jukes said.

Cr Jukes questioned council's move to withdraw $25,000 from the 2016/17 Budget set aside for a business case for the project, and withdrawal of an agreement to pursue state government and industry partnerships to produce the full business case.

He also challenged council's decision to remove the Macedon Ranges Equine Strategy as a reference document from local, state and federal government policy development.

"To lose the strategy from our policy development means it will not be considered in our planning scheme. The equine industry is the second largest economic driver in the shire," he said.

However, Cr Andrew Twaits said the work of the past five years put into the project would not be wasted.

"The good consultation done as part of the study will not be lost. It will go back into the council planning process," Cr Twaits said.

He said making the equine industry part of the shire's leisure strategy instead would open it to new funding opportunities that it had previously missed.

Cr Twaits also believed community access to the facility was an afterthought, which was supported by Cr Natasha Gayfer's concerns about the feasibility of the project and assumptions of its use.

Ranges Equine Industry Network spokesperson Tracey Robertson said the group would continue to lobby for council's support.

"The heart of the matter is that the whole Macedon Ranges community can benefit enormously from this project, and has already raised $16,000 to add to the promised $25,000, to develop a business case that will answer any doubts about the viability of the project," she said.

"No investor will look at the proposal without some more in-depth analysis, so by blocking the development of the business case, councillors are ensuring we don't have a chance."

Cr Twaits previously stated that another body to consider the project was likely to develop their own business case.

The final vote again saw an 8-1 decision with the original motion to withdraw council support of the project still standing.

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