Race ban may cost millions
By Alex Easton
MILLIONS of dollars will be stripped from the local economy if an outbreak of horse flu forces the axing of the Lismore and Ballina Cups.
Local business groups, along with the Ballina Jockey Club and the Lismore Turf Club, yesterday said the race days were critical contributors to the Lismore and Ballina economies, and warned the loss of income would be felt from the stables through to the heart of the region's central business districts.
NSW Agriculture Minister Ian Macdonald yesterday extended a ban on moving horses indefinitely, ruling out any racing this week, including today's Grafton races which had promised a prize pool of up to $60,000 and this weekend's Broadwater Cup at Ballina.
If it continues, the ban will threaten the Ballina Cup on September 13, and even the Lismore Cup on September 27.
Lismore Turf Club secretary-manager Michael Timbrell and Ballina Jockey Club secretary-manager Steve Taylor each said their respective cup days generated about $100,000 in profit for their clubs.
But the total cash turnover for the day topped the $1 million mark for both clubs, with most of that money being pumped directly into the local economy through wages and the hiring of equipment and services.
And Lismore Unlimited Opportunities president Mark Willoughby, Lismore Economic Development Unit manager Ruth Povall, and Ballina Chamber of Commerce spokesman Bryan Marriott said the benefits for the region went well beyond the cash raised and spent at the racecourses.
Cancelling the race meetings would have a significant impact, particularly on retailers and particularly on the more fashion-based retailers, Mr Willoughby said.
Celina Hellyar, owner of Lismore fashion shop The House of Horton, said she had already stocked up on hats and frocks for the Lismore and Ballina Cups, and women planning to go to the races were already buying their outfits.
The scrapping of the races could leave her with stock she had expected to move quickly over the next few weeks. Mr Willoughby said a lot of local businesses used the race days for promotions or to reward valued customers.
The region relied on the race day attracting new people and 'new money'.
"To have that not happen will have a knock-on effect for the whole economy," he said.