Three parties will meet in an attempt to thrash out a solution over proposed operating hours of an existing pistol shooting range.
The Goulburn and District Racing Club is baulking at a NSW Police application to change operating times at the range near its driver training school at 593 Taralga Road.
The Club's CEO Robin Fife told Tuesday night's council meeting that horse trainers would have to shut their doors if the plan went ahead. Moreover, the race club would not be able to meet Racing NSW standards to provide a minimum four hours training time and could face deregistration.
NSW Police have applied for an extension of operating hours to the pistol firing range, located 1.3km north of and adjoining the race club. Under its 2012 approval, it can operate from 10am to 5pm Monday to Friday. But until an indoor facility is renovated at the Police Academy, they want to use the range from 8am to 5pm for 10 weeks. The application also asks for 9am to 5pm permanent operating times at Taralga Road after the Police Academy range is finished.
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But in a submission, Ms Fife said trainers used the track from 6am to 10am Monday to Saturday during summer and 6.30am to 10.30am in winter to train thoroughbred horses.
"Trackwork is a vital component of their business and the track is fully utilised during those four hours. On some occasions over that four-hour period there can be over 100 horses using the track at any one time," she wrote.
An extra 30 horses were trucked in from outside Goulburn to use the track which was "considered one of the best."
"We are very much against this proposal to allow firing to start at 8am rather than 10am," Ms Fife told councillors.
"The livelihoods of approximately 45 trainers and their staff and the future of the Race Club would be seriously affected."
She said the Club employed about 80 people, ran 20 race meetings and 15 to 20 functions a year, all of which brought business to town.
Racing NSW standards also required no noise, machinery or vehicles to be in the vicinity of the track during training.
"This is inconvenient for our workers as well (because) it means that we cannot commence any 'loud' work or projects until 10.30am. If we do not adhere to this policy, NSW Racing can choose not to register our club, which means we simply do not operate," Ms Fife wote in her submission.
She said many young horses were in training and their reactions were "unpredictable." But all horses reacted with a fight or flight response to sudden noises.
"Riding a racehorse is one of the most dangerous jobs a person can hold and it is our duty of care to ensure our horses and staff are kept safely at work," one trainer had told her.
"Simply put, our insurance would not cover us if horses and riders are allowed on the track when gunshot is fired."
The CEO said the Race Club wanted to build more stables but could not do so if the range's operating hours were approved.
Ms Fife suggested that the range could instead operate to later in the day.
"We feel we have a great relationship with the police and we want it to continue but this is a major, major issue for our club. Work, Health and Safety would be severely compromised," she said.
Given that it is a state government authority, the council cannot refuse the development or impose conditions with which police don't agree. Environment and Planning director Scott Martin said if the parties didn't agree on the conditions, the DA could only be referred to the Southern Regional Planning Panel. The Panel also didn't have right of refusal but it could refer it to the State's Planning Minister if it didn't endorse the application.
"It's a unique circumstance and we don't see many of these applications," Mr Martin said.
He said police wanted the longer hours to cater for larger intakes at the Academy.
Planners had recommended approval but councillors decided to defer the matter to enable further talks between all parties.
Let's not wait for it (an accident) to happen. Let's put something in place to stop it happening.Cr Andrew Banfield
Deputy Mayor Peter Walker called for the discussions, with the council taking a "conciliatory role." He said he would have preferred to have more information on timeframes for the Police Academy's new range before the matter was considered.
A proposed consent condition stated that the temporary 8am to 5pm operating times could be suspended at 48 hours notice by council if it could be demonstrated by a vet or animal welfare expert that horses were being "negatively impacted" by pistol range activities.
But Cr Andrew Banfield said this was not good enough.
"This is saying 'go your hardest, we'll come and visit you in hospital,'" he said.
"Let's not wait for it (an accident) to happen. Let's put something in place to stop it happening."
Mayor Bob Kirk pointed out that the Racing Club had been there more than 20 years and the pistol range since 2012. The only thing that had changed was the Police Academy's firing range renovations and higher student intake.
"That condition is there for a reason and if that (pistol fire) doesn't negatively impact, I don't know what does," he said.
After the meeting he said the council wanted to support and encourage both organisations to achieve what they needed.
"It's a very difficult decision and there has to be a loser out of this," he said.
"The way I see it is the recommendation would have virtually shut down training operations, which would have affected the Race Club's viability. We didn't want to see that happen. We also want police to be able to carry out what they want so if we can find a solution, we'll try that first. The Race Club doesn't have options but I think the police do and I think we have to explore that."
If a resolution can't be reached in 21 days, the council will "obtain the Planning Minister's approval through the Joint Regional Planning Panel to support the council's refusal" of the application. This would be based on its "adverse impact" on Race Club operations and its financial viability. Moreover, the original DA was subject to negotiations between police and the Club and the council was not satisfied a change to the development consent was warranted.
On Wednesday, Ms Fife said she was happy with the meeting's outcome but there was still more work to do.
"It's a complicated situation," she said.
Police Academy principal, Superintendent Rod Smith said the institution always wanted to do the right thing by the community. He believed dialogue would occur."
The Academy's pistol range, which is part of the new 'Active Armed Offenders' training facility is expected to be finished in December.
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