Local News

Scenes like this on, from last year’s Grafton Cup meeting, are not happening at racecourses around the country, but racing continues without spectators and with social distancing measures in place for those participating. Image: file pic by Lynne Mowbray

And they’re racing … at Grafton

As racing continues at the Clarence River Jockey Club in Grafton and in most states around the country, the Independent went looking for some guidance on why these ‘essential’ gatherings are continuing, despite the severe COVID-19 restrictions implemented across the country.

The Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order 2020 was brought into law when signed by NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard on March 30.

However, while racing – horses and greyhounds – is not included in the essential gatherings outlined in ‘Schedule 2’ of the regulation, it is included as a disclaimer in ‘Part 5 – obligation of owners and occupiers of premises’, which allows the “conduct of events (such as sporting or racing events), subject to the limits” regarding the maximum number of people allowed on premises.

The Independent put the following questions to the minister responsible for racing, Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson:

Can the Minister please tell me why racing has continued despite the new COVID-19/corona virus regulations regarding gatherings and essential services?

Why has racing been adjudged an essential service?

Why don’t distance rules apply to these ‘sports’?

Is it to keep the economy ticking over and to generate tax revenue for the state? (please provide context for this last question’s answer if you give a yes or no answer)

Mr Anderson replied with the following statement: “As the current situation develops further, the [NSW] government continues to work closely with all industries to prioritise the safety of the community and stop the spread of COVID-19.

“These are unprecedented times and we want to emerge from this crisis in the best shape possible which is why, wherever possible, we must keep people in their jobs.

“The Racing industry has been extremely proactive in responding to the challenges of COVID-19, including engaging with Government early to ensure they understood and adhered to any new guidelines and prioritised the safety of their employees and patrons.

“As with all other occupations, those working within the industry must take steps to ensure the health and safety of themselves and others, including social distancing and effective personal hygiene practices.

“Everybody in NSW, including those in the racing industry, must comply with mandatory Public Health Orders at all times.”

Racing Australia put its side of the story in an April 1 media release titled, Racing Australia focused on continuation of Thoroughbred Racing during COVID-19, which sates, in part, “Racing Australia has been working closely with the Principal Racing Authorities (PRAs), to ensure the continuation of Thoroughbred Racing across Australia through analysis, advocacy and the continuity of services.

“Racing Australia recognises its responsibility to provide leadership during these significantly stressful and uncertain times by undertaking analysis to provide information to all levels of government that quantify the severe impacts COVID-19 virus will have on our industry in the coming months.”

On the revenue front, thoroughbred racing accounts for the following, according to Racing Australia: “an economic contribution of around $9.5 billion with 51 per cent or $4.8 billion achieved in regional Australia; direct and indirect 74,518 FTE [fulltime equivalent] jobs nationally; nearly 160,000 participate in the thoroughbred racing industry as employee or volunteer. (63 per cent reside in regional areas); includes 21,425 volunteers, who assist and support racing clubs and participants; and, no industry or sport covers the breadth of our nation like thoroughbred racing.”

Continue reading Part 2: www.clarencevalleynews.com.au/and-theyre-racing-at-grafton-part-2